YouTube could soon make it impossible to use ad blockers on its videos – here's how

YouTube

YouTube’s crusade against ad blockers has seen the platform try out multiple strategies, from auto-skipping entire videos to crippling third-party apps. Now they're trying something new, though. 

The company is now experimenting with what could be its most insidious tactic yet – server-side ad injection. This news comes from the developer behind SponsorBlock, a prominent ad blocker for YouTube, who sounded the alarm on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter).

Server-side ad injection (also called server-side ad insertion) is where websites directly integrate advertisements into video content on the server, hence the name. YouTube's current method is more akin to client-side ad insertion, or CSAI, which places advertisements on videos while on web browsers. 

Ad blockers operate by stopping CSAI ads, but they don’t work against SSAI (server-side ad injection) techniques. That’s because, under SSAI, advertisements are considered to be “indistinguishable from the video,” according to 9To5Google.

If YouTube decides to implement SSAI on a wide scale, it would essentially break ad blockers as they’d be unable to stop commercials. A small group of users on the YouTube subreddit have reported encountering the tech, with one of the top comments noting they’re seeing ads even though they use uBlock Origin on Firefox. Nothing they do to fix the problems seems to work. 

Possible workaround

Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the situation, hope is not lost. The SponsorBlock developer made an FAQ addressing SSAI on GitHub, explaining this is not the end of the extension. 

They state that if YouTube decides to implement the injection, it would have to send data to the video player informing it how long an advertisement will last. It’s possible for ad blockers to obtain the data and utilize it to stop the commercial. 

But, giving an ad blocker the ability to do so will be difficult. It may be a while until these extensions can successfully stop SSAI. The developer states that “SponsorBlock will not work for people” while the experiment is underway.

New restrictions

In addition to SSAI, a group of developers found a potentially new restriction on YouTube, where the platform will tell you to log into your account before you can watch content. 

The website apparently wants to make sure “you’re not a bot.” Android Authority, in its report, believes YouTube might soon “limit logged-out video access in the future." If this is ever introduced, it would severely limit how YouTube videos are shared. 

Software developers are, however, a wily bunch. The team behind content downloader Cobalt has found a way to circumvent the restriction. But YouTube could roll out stronger limitations on content sharing and an even stronger crackdown on ad blockers.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best free YouTube download app for 2024.

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Cesar Cadenas
Contributor

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.