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Common questions about adblock

“Adblock” refers to various techniques that prevent the display of advertising on web pages. Most forms of adblock is performed by browser plugins, which can be quickly added to most web browsers, and which are generally free and open-source. More rarely, adblock can also be done by network proxy servers that are configured in the home or by an ISP.
Adblock software generally blocks all ads on all web pages by default; most adblock plugins do not require the user to make a decision on whether to block ads on an individual basis. A single bad experience with advertising can lead someone to install adblock software with one click, removing all ads from their internet-wide browsing experience.

Entertaining, useful, and respectful ads get blocked along with those annoying ads that are driving the growth of adblock.

Adblock is effective against the majority of native, video, image, and interactive ads.

In 2016, usage of adblock software on desktop and mobile devices grew by 30% YoY to reach 615 million devices globally. In December 2016 there were 380 million mobile devices blocking ads and 236 million desktop/laptop devices blocking ads. 11% of the global internet population now blocks ads on the web.

Adblock is growing across platforms.

Overall adblock penetration per online capita, December 2016:

  • United States: 18%
  • China: 13%
  • United Kingdom: 16%
  • Germany: 29%
  • Australia: 20%
  • Canada: 25%
  • France: 11%
  • Italy: 17%
  • Indonesia: 58%
  • India: 28%
Explore data
The most popular form of adblock (in the United States and Europe) is done by adblock extensions installed in web browsers. Here is how they operate.

Normally when a web page loads the user’s web browser makes requests to servers for editorial and advertising content.

Normal page load without adblock installed.

Adblock extensions have the power to control what requests a web browser makes. They monitor all requests made by the browser and refuse any requests that match an entry contained in a blacklist. The most popular of these advertising blacklists is ‘Easylist’, which is maintained by a large community and updated regularly.

Adblock extension prevents browser making request for ad from ad server.

When ads are blocked the spaces where they would have appeared are now left empty.

Space on the web page is now left vacant by ads.

The adblock extensions generally reflow the editorial content to occupy the space vacated by the advertising (using CSS styling).

Content is reflowed to occupy space left by blocked ads.

From the web user’s perspective the result is a cleaner redesign of the web page, and the page loads much faster because no ads are being transferred. From the publisher’s perspective the result is an inability to monetize the web user.

This chart shows the results of a survey of over 1000 adblock users in the United States conducted by PageFair in November 2016. Adblock users were asked to identify the single most important reason for using adblock software on their desktop and laptop computers.

Interruptive ad formats and virus/malware concerns were the leading reasons given for adblock usage.

  • 38% more women than men indicated concerns about viruses and malware as their main motivation.
  • 14% more men than women stated that interruption was their top concern.
  • Over 70% of users chose more than one reason as “most important” in their choice to use adblock software.
  • Outside of security and interruption, user motivation did not vary significantly by demographic segment.

    While privacy was a top concern for early adopters of adblock software, it is less so for a mainstream audience.

On mobile connections adblock is also a means of reducing data costs.

This chart shows the results of a survey of over 1000 adblock users in the United States conducted by PageFair in November 2016. Previous analyses by different organizations showed significantly higher rates of adblock usage among young males. These survey results now indicate that adblock usage demographics are either broader than previously anticipated, or that adblock usage has become more mainstream.
  • Men are 34% more likely than women to use adblock software on desktop and laptop computers.
  • Suburban and urban internet users are 17% more likely to use desktop adblock software than those in rural areas.
Survey results also indicate that adblock users may also be more educated than non-adblock users. They indicate that adblock users in the US are 1.5x as likely to have a bachelor’s degree than the average American adult, increasing to 3x as likely among 18-24 year olds. Pronounced adblock usage among college-age respondents points to campuses as a major vector for adblock adoption.

  • Among 18-24 year olds, bachelor’s degree attainment was 35% among adblock users surveyed, versus 11% according to the US Census (and 26% among the survey pool).
  • Across all age groups, bachelor’s degree attainment was 45% among adblock users surveyed, versus 30% according to the US Census (and 40% among the survey pool).
The ‘blocked web,’ the portion of the web where users block ads, is steadily growing. This is creating a new, premium segment.

While this is causing short term pain to publishers it actually opens up a new and entirely uncluttered (and zero fraud) segment that brands can reach using PageFair’s ad-serving technology.

Provided publishers and advertisers address this segment respectfully (and address genuine consumer issues of privacy, security, and speed) this growing segment is a boon to brands seeking an uncluttered premium space for above the line brand building.

Today there are two categories of user who visit your site: users of the normal web who see all ads, and users of the blocked web who currently see so ads and are of particular interest to premium advertisers.

Media buyer’s view of the normal segment

  • Users have an acute attention deficit because the web is over-cluttered with advertising.
  • It is affected by ad fraud.
  • The ads these users see tend to be focussed on the bottom of the marketing funnel.

Media buyer’s view of the blocking segment

  • There is no advertising clutter. Users see no other ads.
  • There is no ad fraud.
  • This segment can provide a premium top of funnel tool for brand building.

Explore adblock around the world

Industry reports and white papers


Published: June 2017
Format: PDF



Published: April 2017
Format: PDF


state of the blocked web

Published: February 2017
Format: PDF


Adblocking Goes Mobile

Published: May 2016
Format: PDF


The Cost of Adblocking

Published: August 2015
Format: PDF


Adblocking Goes Mainstream

Published: September 2014
Format: PDF


The Rise of Adblocking

Published: August 2013
Format: PDF


What To Do About Adblocking

Published: February 2016
Note: written by PageFair for the International News Media Association (INMA). this is an INMA members-only resource.