How is the world’s biggest boycott doing?

ad blocking

Eight years ago, I called ad blocking The Biggest Boycott in World History, because hundreds of millions of people were blocking ads online. (The headline came from my wife, by the way.) Then, a few days ago, Cory Doctorow kindly pointed to that post in one of his typically trenchant Pluralistic newsletters.

So I thought I’d check to see how the boycott is doing.

It’s hard to find original sources of hard numbers on ad blocking. Instead, there are lots of what I’ll call claims. But some of those claims do cite or link to sources of some kind. Here are four:

  1. Brian Dean‘s Backlinko sources Hootsuite, saying 42.7% of Internet users employ ad blockers. Hootsuite, however, wants me to fill out a form that I am sure will get me spammed. So I’m passing on that. Meanwhile there are other interesting stats cited. Growson Edwards on surfaces a bunch of Hootsuite graphics with interesting data.
  2. Statista last January said “the ad blocking user penetration rate in the United States stood at approximately 26 percent in 2020, indicating that roughly 73 million internet users had installed some form of ad blocking software, plugin, or browser on their web-enabled devices that year. While awareness of these services lies at almost 90 percent, the number of internet users actively leveraging the technology has stagnated in recent years following visible changes in online user behavior. The switch from desktop to mobile has arguably had one of the most significant impacts on ad block usage: As internet users increasingly browse the web via mobile devices, desktop ad block usage rates in the U.S. and many other parts of the world are dropping, albeit at varying speeds. While mobile ad blocking adoption is still at a nascent stage in the U.S., the global number of mobile ad blocking browser users is rapidly increasing.” On another page, Statista says marketers “can conquer ad blocking by offering personalized advertising.” Anybody want that? Give me a show of hands. Thought so.
  3. Blockthrough, an advertising company, offers a 2022 adblock report that requires filling out a form. So I passed on that one too, but can report that its “key insights” are these: “With 290M monthly active users globally, adblocking on desktop has climbed back close to its all-time-high from 2018,” and “The average adblock rate across geos and verticals is 21%, as measured across >10B pageviews on 9,453 websites.”
  4. Surfshark has some cool maps showing which countries hate ads most and least, based on searches for ad-blocking software. (France was at the top.)

Perhaps more interesting than any of those stats (all of which are unsurprising) is using AI to generate graphics for a post such as this one. At first, I wanted the system (Bing Creator) to show two separate populations: one living blissfully in a land without advertising, and one with advertising everywhere. That was a fail. I couldn’t get it not to show advertising on both sides. Then I tried to get it to depict the blocking of ads, for example with a wall. That failed too, because advertising always appeared on the wall. Finally, I got the image above with a prompt asking for people who were happy to have advertising inside a giant bottle. Isn’t it crazy how fast the miraculous becomes annoying?


2 responses to “How is the world’s biggest boycott doing?”

  1. […] How is the world’s biggest boycott doing? […]

  2. […] How is the world’s biggest boycott doing? Eight years ago, I called ad blocking The Biggest Boycott in World History, because hundreds of millions of people were blocking ads online. […]

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