Adam Birney / Android Authority
Google’s YouTube depends on advertising revenue, which should come as no surprise if you’re regularly skipping two-minute ad breaks for products you have no interest in. Ads can be so pervasive that many people have turned to blockers to watch uninterrupted. More recently, however, Google has been testing warning messages threatening to limit web playback unless people disable blockers or pay for YouTube Premium. In this guide we’ll get you up to date on the situation, and whether or not you might be impacted.
When did YouTube start blocking ad blockers?
People first started noticing warning messages in June 2023. On June 30, YouTube confirmed to Android Authority that a test was underway, and as of mid-July the test seems to be continuing. It’s not clear when the program might end or expand further.
Why is YouTube blocking ad blockers?
The official explanation is that “ad blockers violate YouTube’s Terms of Service,” and (via the warning message) that “ads allow YouTube to stay free for billions of users worldwide.” Unofficially the answer is that if the company can’t display ads, it can’t attract money from advertisers, and revenue falls. YouTube does generate some income from Premium subscriptions, but not enough to keep the entire service afloat.
There’s actually a double-whammy at play here — many channel creators depend on their split from ad revenue, and when a channel becomes unsustainable, it inevitably goes dormant. Without reasons for people to tune in, YouTube as a whole can lose viewers, generating a vicious cycle.
Is YouTube blocking ad blockers globally?
YouTube states that it’s “running a small experiment globally,” which sounds like an oxymoron. The translation is that while testing is happening in multiple countries, only a small percentage of users are involved. It’s entirely possible that you might see warning messages while someone just down the street is unaffected, or vice versa.
If early testing generates the results YouTube is after, expect the program to expand to more people and/or more countries. Eventually some sort of warning message will become standard unless there’s a fundamental legal or technical barrier, or people find ways around blocker blocking that make YouTube’s efforts pointless.
Is there any other way to watch YouTube without ads?
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
The obvious answer is paying for YouTube Premium. It costs $11.99 per month (or $119.99 per year) for most individuals, but there are student and family plans available, and you get additional perks like offline caching and YouTube Music Premium. Some of your money goes to creators, so overall, we’d legitimately recommend this if you can afford it.
Beyond that, options are thin. There are downloader extensions that let you watch videos offline, but YouTube is trying to crack down on these as well, and they’re inconvenient when you want to watch something right away.
YouTube is even working to defeat DNS-based workarounds by delivering ads and content through the same addresses. It’s possible that VPNs might help if you’re already subject to blocking, but we wouldn’t count on a provider’s ad-blocking tools being any different than freely available ones. You subscribe to a VPN for privacy and security, not ditching ads.