If you go down to YouTube today you're in for a big surprise – or at least, you are if you're using an ad blocker. What began as a test of anti-blocking measures has now become an official "global effort" to stop you from stopping ads. If you want an ad-free YouTube experience, you'll need to pay for it.
I've been running into this a lot over the last few weeks because I embed a lot of YouTube-hosted trailers – with ads intact – into articles, so I have to skip through a lot of clips' intros to find the right ones; without an ad-blocker, I'd see pretty much nothing but pre-roll ads. At first the messages were just messages, but in recent weeks they've been three-strikes precursors to full blocks preventing me from accessing video at all.
YouTube is very clear about this: using ad blockers is a breach of the terms of service whether you're watching fractions of a second or entire movies. And now it's enforcing those terms.
Why is YouTube blocking the blockers?
The answer, as ever, is money. YouTube sells ads, ads make money, blocking ads means blocking money. Ad-blocker fans will point out that YouTube banked a whopping $29.2 billion in 2022, but that's not really the point: rules are rules, and if you use an ad blocker you're breaking them.
The goal of the more aggressive anti-blocker action is clearly to persuade you to take out YouTube Premium, which has just gone up in price to a pretty hefty £11.99 per month in the UK for one user. A family membership is £19.99. There was a cheaper option for low-volume users like me, Premium Lite, but YouTube canned that last week.
If you're in Australia, then you'll be shelling out a whopping AU$32.99 per month for your YouTube Premium privileges.
I won't be signing up for Premium: I rarely use YouTube outside work, so if like me you're a low volume user who doesn't care about features such as offline downloading it's an incredibly expensive way to remove a handful of ads – and clearly something that's going to get even more expensive every year.
I suspect YouTube's ad blocking ban is going to be another game of whack-a-mole in the ongoing battle between tech giants and ad blocking software and services; users of certain ad blockers are already reporting that their chosen solutions are getting past the new blocking technology.