"People can modify the interest we use to show them ads to make
them more relevant to their interests," said Andrew Bosworth,
VP-ads and business platform, Facebook.
The changes benefit the marketers, too, according to Mr.
Bosworth. "Advertisers want to make sure they're spending money in
a way they think will be effective for them."
At the same time, Facebook is introducing an initiative that it
says thwarts ad blockers' attempts to discern sponsored posts from
non-sponsored posts. Previously, Facebook was just as susceptible
to ad-blockers on its desktop site as any other publisher.
"It will be really hard for ad-blockers to distinguish what is
an ad and what is not an ad," Mr. Bosworth said.
Ad-blocking has become an industry scourge, with more people
installing the easy-to-use software. Although many people predict
that technological countermeasures will eventually fail as ad
blockers engage in an arms race with publishers, Facebook said it
was not concerned that ad-blockers would evolve to beat its new
"If people really want to block ads they would have to do a deep
inspection of the content, which would be really slow," Mr.
Bosworth said. "People who have the choice of seeing ads on
Facebook and a slower experience would all choose to see the
Still, plenty of people are choosing not to see ads. The
Interactive Advertising Bureau has reported that a quarter of
internet users deploy ad blockers on desktop.
The practice hurts already struggling publishers, which have
been coming up with
creative ways to convince readers to whitelist their ads
to circumvent ad-blockers.
Adblock Plus, which claims 100 million users, maintains an
"acceptable ads" program that approves certain styles of ads and
charges larger publishers to participate.
It's a troubling model, Mr. Bosworth said. "They take money for
letting ads get through," Mr. Bosworth said. "There's a degree of
moral hazard to that."
Facebook's ability to counter ad-blockers makes it even more
dominant in the marketplace competing with publishers for ad
dollars, according to Frédéric Montagnon, CEO of
Secret Media, which works with the industry on anti-ad block
"Buyers are buying more and more on Facebook because they start
to understand they are not losing reach to ad block on Facebook,"
Mr. Montagnon said by e-mail. "While they know they are not able to
reach a significant part of the user they want to target everywhere
Facebook said it's deploying the ad-block counter measures
because it feels they interrupt the full experience it delivers
users, arguing that users are just as interested in ads targeted to
their tastes as they are content tuned to their likes. Presumably,
however, consumers trying to block ads when they visit Facebook
have come to a different conclusion.
While there is clearly financial incentive to defeat ad
blockers, most of Facebook's revenue comes from its mobile app,
where ad blockers are not a factor.
Anytime a new technology tries to thwart them, the ad-block
software community finds a way to defeat it, according to Till
Faida, CEO of Eyeo, the software-maker behind Adblock Plus. "Cat
and mouse games are a waste of time," Mr. Faida said. "At the end
of the day user choice will prevail on the web."
Adblock Plus advocates for publishers to adopt "acceptable"
"It makes more sense than forcing ads on users they clearly
don't want to see," Mr. Faida said.
An earlier version of this article erroneously referred to
Facebook's VP-ads and business platform as Adam Bosworth. His first
name is Andrew.