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BizReport : Advertising : April 21, 2017

Researchers developing a super-adblocker

If publishers are already concerned about how the war on ad blockers is going, they may not want to hear about the daddy of all ad blockers that is currently being developed by Princeton and Stanford researchers. If you do want to hear more, read on.

by Helen Leggatt

Ad blocking is a real problem for publishers, especially those providing content online free of charge. But the fact is, some ad formats are so annoying (think pop-ups and auto-playing video) that consumers prefer to block all advertising messaging.

Existing ad blockers search out signs that a webpage contains ads by interrogating source code. However, those signs can be disguised by anti ad-blocking sites. So, at least some ads can get through... until now.

Researchers from Princeton and Stanford have developed the "Perceptual Ad Blocker" tool - potentially the next generation of ad blockers. Instead of looking at a webpage's source code, the tool analyzes a webpage to recognize ads in much the same way as humans - by looking at graphics, container sizes and searching to ad-related words such as "Sponsored" or "Close Ad".


When tested against 50 known anti ad blocking sites, the tool was able to block ads on all of them without being detected.

"We don't claim to have created an undefeatable ad blocker, but we identify an evolving combination of technical and legal factors that will determine the "end game" of the arms race," wrote Arvind Narayanan in a blog post.

The Perpetual Ad Blocker is currently only available in a proof-of-concept version which does not block ads, but identifies them on a webpage.

Tags: ad blocking, advertising, publishers

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