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YouTube looks to be testing server-side ad injection to counter ad blockers

1 month ago 78

YouTube’s crackdown on tools that block advertising continues with server-side ad injection. 

The developer of SponsorBlock, which is a crowdsourced extension to skip sponsored segments, shared today that “YouTube is currently experimenting with server-side ad injection.”

At a high-level, this should mean that the ad is now part of the video that’s being streamed to your device instead of being delivered separately to the desktop web or mobile client. That current approach allows ad blockers to intercept and not show the advertising. Going forward, the ad should be indistinguishable from the video.

In the case of SponsorBlock, “all timestamps are offset by the ad times.”

For now, I set up the server to detect when someone is submitting from a browser with this happening and rejecting the submission to prevent the database from getting filled with incorrect submissions.

Server-side ad injection is a broader problem for full ad blockers, which YouTube has been working to counter through various means in the past year. After browser extensions, Google targeted third-party clients, which are popular on mobile. As always, users are encouraged to subscribe to YouTube Premium.

This is currently still in testing, with some users already encountering the problem. However, it’s not yet widely rolled out. YouTube will presumably not detail what’s happening behind-the-scenes, but it would be interesting to know how the insertion is handled and what changes YouTube had to implement to its ad-serving infrastructure.

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