YouTube testing 'three strikes' rule to block users with ad blockers

YouTube open on an Android phone
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YouTube is running an experiment to try and prevent users from using ad blockers while using the platform. In what’s fast becoming known as the “three strikes” warning, viewers are reporting a pop-up message that’s started appearing when browsing the site using an ad blocker.

Several screenshots have appeared on Reddit and Twitter displaying the warning which explains the YouTube “video player will be blocked after 3 videos” unless the ad blocker is disabled or the viewer signs up to YouTube Premium.

The notice continues: “It looks like you may be using an ad blocker. Video playback will be blocked unless YouTube is allowlisted or the ad blocker is disabled. Ads allow YouTube to stay free for billions of users worldwide. You can go ad-free with YouTube Premium, and creators can still get paid from your subscription.”

The Google-owned business confirmed it was carrying out the experiment and reinforced that viewers will be cut off if they “ignore repeated requests to allow ads on YouTube."

A YouTube statement provided to Tom's Guide explained: “We’re running a small experiment globally that urges viewers with ad blockers enabled to allow ads on YouTube or try YouTube Premium. Ad blocker detection is not new, and other publishers regularly ask viewers to disable ad blockers.”

YouTube hasn’t revealed how many users have been served the notice, nor which countries it is running the trial in. It’s also unclear if or how viewers would be able to re-access the site after being blocked from watching.

YouTube is understandably concerned about keeping eyeballs on advertisements. The site makes most of its revenue from ads and has seen a continued decline over the last three quarters. Which is a pretty big reason why the platform is taking a more aggressive stance.

The approach isn’t a new one and certainly isn’t unique to YouTube. Although it runs on a different revenue model, Netflix is currently in the process of trying to crack down on password sharing as a means of driving up its subscriptions. There’s some evidence to suggest it’s working, too.  

The latest figures suggest YouTube Premium, which doesn’t contain ads and allows you to download videos to watch offline, currently has around 80 million subscribers worldwide.

So, although YouTube’s ad blocker blocking test is a limited experiment right now, we wouldn’t be surprised if the test expands around the world if it works.

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Jeff Parsons
UK Editor In Chief

Jeff is UK Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide looking after the day-to-day output of the site’s British contingent. Rising early and heading straight for the coffee machine, Jeff loves nothing more than dialling into the zeitgeist of the day’s tech news.

A tech journalist for over a decade, he’s travelled the world testing any gadget he can get his hands on. Jeff has a keen interest in fitness and wearables as well as the latest tablets and laptops. A lapsed gamer, he fondly remembers the days when problems were solved by taking out the cartridge and blowing away the dust.