Ad blockers aren’t new and have been used by web users for years now, although in more recent times it seems that websites and services have found ways around them, where pages might not load if it detects there’s an ad blocker, or it now displays different kinds of ads that have found a way around the blocker.
It almost feels like ad blockers are doomed to die out and fade into obscurity, but thanks to work by researchers at Princeton and Stanford, they might have created a new kind of ad blocker that in theory, seems to be undefeatable. Developed by computer scientist Arvind Narayanan and his colleagues, this ad blocker does not look at the code on a website to determine what to block, but rather it looks at the content.
Dubbed the Perceptual Ad Blocker, what it does is that it looks out for words like “Sponsored” to determine if it is an ad. However perhaps to avoid an ethics debate, the ad blocker will only cover ads with words like “This is an ad” instead of blocking/removing them from the page entirely, which is how ad blockers typically work.
While it does sound like this could be an undefeatable ad blocker, Narayanan doesn’t really see it that way. He writes, “We don’t claim to have created an undefeatable ad blocker, but we identify an evolving combination of technical and legal factors that will determine the “end game” of the arms race.” For those interested, the Perceptual Ad Blocker is actually available as a Chrome extension if you’d like to check it out.