Opera pulls trigger on baked-in ad blocker

First of the Top 5 browsers to integrate an ad blocker

Opera Software today released a production version of its flagship desktop browser with an integrated ad blocker, along with a similarly armed version of its Opera Mini for Android.

In March, Opera revealed plans to bake an ad-blocker into its browsers when it shipped a developer preview of the desktop Opera that included the technology. Rival browser makers, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla, do not scrub pages of their ads themselves, but instead have taken a path of least resistance by supporting third-party ad-blocking extensions.

Today, Opera again argued that it's included an ad blocker because customers want a faster browser. "We do this because we want to provide people with the fastest browsers in the market," asserted Opera CEO Lars Boilesen in a statement. "Our speed test shows that online ads slow down the browsing experience."

But in March, Krystian Kolondra, who leads Opera's engineering, said that the Norwegian-made browser was integrating a blocker not only to accelerate rendering -- an obvious result of dropping any page content -- but also for evangelical reasons.

"The [ad] industry should be making sure that ads are not ruining the user experience," said Kolondra in a March 10 interview. He also noted ad industry claims that it is working on creating ad types that are less intrusive and come with a smaller rendering penalty, but wondered, "Where are those better ads? If we could accelerate this change, there wouldn't be a need for ad blocking."

The increase in browser-based ad blocking has raised the temperature of a long-running dispute between some users and many privacy advocates on one hand, and online advertisers on the other. The former cite the overwhelming number of ads on many sites and the tracking those ads perform, while the latter -- and the content publishers and service providers that rely on ad dollars -- claim that blockers are stealing money out of their pockets.

Like the vast majority of commercial websites, Computerworld generates some of its revenue through ads.

Browser makers, Kolondra argued, had the right to insert themselves in the conversation because of the slow load speed of some websites. "It's quite obvious that users care about speed," Kolondra said, in defending the integrated ad blocker.

Even so, Opera "doesn't want to be in the ad-blocking business," Kolondra said. "We definitely don't want to create a living out of whitelisting."

The impact of Opera's decision is unlikely to be significant, as its desktop user share has remained below the 2% bar since mid-2011. According to metrics vendor Net Applications, Opera accounted for 1.9% of all browsers used in April. Opera Mini had a stronger following, with an estimated share of about 6% of the mobile browser market.

It's also not the first browser to adopt an ad-blocking strategy: In January, a new browser called Brave debuted with a business model that explicitly relied on blocking website ads. Unlike Opera, however, Brave plans to replace the stricken ads with its own, a plan that has drawn the ire of U.S. newspaper publishers, which a month ago threatened to sue the browser maker if it persisted.

Interestingly, for all Opera's emphasis on the ad blocker, the tool is turned off by default. To enable it, users must pull up "Settings" -- on OS X, it's labeled "Preferences" -- head to the "Privacy & security" page, and click the box under "Block ads." It may have taken that route to sidestep the fierce criticism from advertisers that other browser makers have faced in the past when they switched features on by default: In 2012, for example, Microsoft came under fire from a long list of large American companies -- including Intel, McDonalds and Visa -- when it said it would enable the now-moribund "Do Not Track" signal in Internet Explorer 10 (IE10).

Microsoft later stepped back from its Do Not Track position.

Opera Software's board of directors wants to sell the company to a consortium of Chinese investors, which include Beijing Kunlun Tech, a mobile game maker; Qihoo, known for its search and anti-malware business in the People's Republic of China; and private equity firm Golden Brick Silk Road Fund Management. The group has offered $1.2 billion for the firm.

Shareholders have until May 24 to vote on the proposed sale.

According to Opera Software's fiscal year 2015 annual report, $418 million of its year-long total of $620 million in revenue, or 67%, was booked from its mobile advertising arm, which delivers ads to users from third-party apps and websites. Much of the remainder also stemmed from ads in one way or another: Opera was paid approximately $50 million, or 8% of the total, for setting Google or Yandex -- the latter is a Russian search provider -- as the default search in the desktop browser.

Opera 37, the stable build for Windows, OS X and Linux, can be downloaded from the Opera Software site. Opera Mini for Android must be downloaded from Google Play.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

5 cornerstones of a strong digital culture

Creating a strong company culture may sound like a daunting task, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. In fact, company culture is created in exactly the same fashion as a religion or democracy. Behaviours created from the organisation’s inception are reinforced over time by leadership, attracting like-minded people and eventually reaching critical mass to become an accepted ‘truth’.

Anthony Stevens

Founder and CEO, Digital Asset Ventures

Should you rebuild your company’s tech stack in blockchain?

The question I get asked most regularly these days is: ‘Do I need to rebuild my company’s systems on Blockchain?’ And the answer, every time, is ‘No, you’re asking the wrong question’.

Michelle O'Keeffe

CEO, Engaging.io

Customer value proposition: Getting the brand promise to your customers right

Throughout my career, I have witnessed a litany of brand names that profess to have a unique customer value proposition (CVP). In reality, however, they’ve had little more than a ‘value proposition’: A simple list of benefits applied to a general audience.

Ric Navarro

Global director of marketing and communications, Norman, Disney & Young

We supply petroleum product such as JP54, D2, D6, JET A1, Serious buyer should contact now for SCO in order to work with seller workable ...

Vico Peißker

ACCC releases Consumer Data Right draft framework for comment

Read more

What is your opinion about chatbots serving your customers? My belief is bots are going to be the future of customer service and fulfilme...

Giridhar Prathap Reddy

NAB taps power of AI chatbots for business customer service

Read more

Thanks for writing about chatbots. Definitely bots have the exciting future when it comes to customer engagement, transactional and conve...

Giridhar Prathap Reddy

Deloitte TMT Predictions: AR and mobile crucial for marketing success in 2018

Read more

Hi there! Thanks for this interesting article! I love to read about new technology and software that makes our lives easier. I'm looking ...

Julia Summer

Wartsila overhauls Web platforms to create ‘seamless’ brand experience across all devices

Read more

RE: Sales and marketing SLAs, often the choke point isn't the teams but them getting the data into the tools they want to use with the da...

Ed Fry

Why sales and marketing alignment is more important than ever

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in