YouTube’s war on ad-blockers just took an irritating turn for the worse

YouTube open on a PC
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s no secret that Google, primarily through YouTube, has declared war on ad-blockers. Plenty of people out there have experienced new warnings, claiming ad-blockers are against the YouTube terms of service, and now YouTube users are facing annoying delays whenever they use an ad-blocker.

The strange new phenomenon sees users faced with a five second delay whenever they try to view a video with ad-block turned on. Early reports came from the YouTube subreddit, initially by Firefox users but then by those browsing on Edge, Brave and Safari. Chrome is also apparently affected, but reports appear to be a lot less frequent.

One Reddit user claims to have found a line of javascript code on YouTube’s desktop client, which allegedly adds an artificial five-second delay. Meaning this is a YouTube thing, rather than an issue with any particular browser. Android Authority notes that while this snippet of code does exist, it can't find direct evidence it’s adding the delay.

reddit user finds code allegedly adding 5 second delay to youtube videos

(Image credit: Paintbooth1234/Reddity via Android Authority)

A statement to the site from YouTube does shed some light on the situation, and the company naturally blames the delay on ad-blockers. 

“To support a diverse ecosystem of creators globally and allow billions to access their favorite content on YouTube, we’ve launched an effort to urge viewers with ad blockers enabled to allow ads on YouTube or try YouTube Premium for an ad free experience. Users who have ad blockers installed may experience suboptimal viewing, regardless of the browser they are using.”

While it’s easy to assume YouTube has deliberately added the code to try and force people into watching ads, or subscribing to YouTube premium, the statement doesn’t exactly admit that. Just that ad-blockers might make your YouTube experience a little more crappy than it would be without.

Then again, having sat through an increasing number of appalling, sketchy and often unskippable ads on YouTube, I definitely would prefer an awkward five-second delay. But if that’s too much for you, Tom’s Hardware has a workaround for anyone using Firefox and uBlock Origin, which reduces your wait time down to 0.01 milliseconds.

It wouldn’t be surprising if this was a deliberate measure to further try and push people away from ad-blockers — though there isn’t any evidence of this. But considering Google is reported to have made $224.47 billion of ad revenue in 2022, on total revenue of $279.8 billion, you know full well that it’s going to do everything it can to clamp down on threats to that revenue stream.

It also wouldn’t be the first time that Google has attacked ad-blockers in some shape or form. We’ve already seen the warnings on YouTube, trying to push people away from ad-blockers, while Google itself has previously announced plans that would have prevented a number of ad-blocking extensions from working on Chrome — plans that are currently set to resume next year.

Considering how dangerous the internet at large can be, it makes sense to block advertising where you can. Malware can easily be spread through ads, and there’s no shortage of scams or dodgy activity propagated through them. The obvious downside is that a lot of sites and services rely on advertising revenue to keep the lights on — including Tom’s Guide. And by blocking those ads, you’re depriving them of some important income. 

But given the dangers, and the fact ads are annoying as heck, it’s no surprise that they’re very popular. Even the FBI recommends using one of the best ad blockers to keep yourself safe online. Apparently those are things Google is having trouble figuring out.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.