Advertising pays much of the budget for most online publishers, making the growth of adblockers an existential threat. As such, adblocking has set off a software-based arms race, with publishers finding software solutions that keep ads appearing or entreat people using adblocking software to white-list them. Adblockers readily respond with modified software that targets these specific responses, triggering the publishers to try again.
Some academics have recently stepped into the middle of this arms race, performing an analysis that allows them to identify the specific methods used by publishers to avoid having ads blocked. And the team has gone on to try a couple of different approaches, both of which modify a webpage’s contents to keep the anti-adblocking software from having an effect.
Outside of the economics of it all, there’s an interesting computer science problem here. The code on the webpage is attempting to identify software present on a user’s browser. How do you recognize when that’s happening, and how can you possibly intervene?