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Ad Blockers: What they are, their history, and their future

The asymmetric relationship between users, content creators, advertisers, and the duopoly

As mentioned in our previous article about the broken Ad Industry, there exists an unbalanced, asymmetric relationship between users and advertisers as a result of the current ad market duopoly. Facebook and Google control what information and data they share with advertisers, and often that information is misleading, inaccurate, and unprofitable for the advertisers that purchase it. On the other end, users willingly (while often unknowingly) surrender their data to these duopolists in return for access to their platforms.

Not only is the relationship between advertisers and sellers asymmetric, but another set of users is often cast to the wayside in order to maintain the duopolist stranglehold on user data: content creators.

Content creators rely on viewers and exposure in order to profit off of their content. When someone decides to upload their content, their options are fairly limited if they want to receive maximum exposure. The largest platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are owned by Facebook and Google. In order to monetize their content and receive payment for their creations, content creators are subject to opaque, one-sided terms set by these platforms.

So, what are the tactics by the duopoly?

  1. First, they encourage content creators to engage with their audience via their channels and build up their assets there.
  2. Once the audience is big enough, they are start pushing content creators and businesses to pay for “sponsored” or “promoted” posts/ads in order to obtain the engagement they previously had build up organically,
  3. constantly changing algorithms to lower user engagement in order to further push users to paying for promoted/sponsored posts,
  4. forced SEO updates,
  5. and giving away content and insights for free to attract users to the platform

These tactics severely hurt content creators while lining the pockets of the duopoly.

One the other, how can end users ensure that their time isn’t wasted nor is their data forfeited to these corporations? One way is through Ad Blocking.

What is Ad Blocking?

Ad blockers, sometimes known as content blockers, are simple yet effective software programs that prevent ads from being shown on websites. Ad blockers are typically browser add-ons, and are available for several browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

AdBlock Plus is the most popular ad blocker on the web. This browser plugin has been downloaded and installed millions of times, and is available for a range of different browsers. Although AdBlock Plus is the most popular ad blocker, dozens of alternatives are available.

Ad blockers allow users to avoid unwanted ads that often waste their time, generally aren’t relevant, and can consume computing and battery resources needlessly. These types of ads that are blocked are often not user-specific, targeted, or relevant at all to the interests of users. They generated revenue for the website that hosts the ads based on clicks/views and while profitable by volume, are often more of a nuisance for both parties than anything.

The practice of Ad blocking has been around for quite some time and has evolved a lot since its inception in 1996 (Source: Ad Guard 2021,

As seen above, Ad Blocking became standard practice over the years as more and more unwanted, irrelevant ads began to bombard users any time they visited a website. This standard continued up until March 13th, 2013, when Google began to take action and remove Ad Blocking applications from the Google Play Store. This marked the first instance that a major corporation took offensive measures to prevent users from shielding themselves from unwanted advertising. This move prevented Ad Blocking software from expanding to mobile devices and dealt a devastating blow to the Ad Blocking community.

The attacks against Ad blocking did not stop there. In December 2014, two German media powerhouses by the name Axel Springer and DIE ZEIT sued Adblock Plus for blocking the display ads on their website. However, Adblock Plus did not back down and has already gained a lot of traction in the community. Adblock Pro continued to develop its tools amidst this lawsuit.

The legal battle continued for several years until the German Supreme Court ruled in favor of Adblock Pro in April, 2018, establishing a precedent that ad blocking was in fact legal.

The Future of Ad Blocking

Today’s digital landscape is largely dominated by Google and Facebook. When it comes to tracking, data aggregation, and targeted advertising, the duopoly reigns supreme.

Traditional Ad Blocking simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Users generally have made peace with being shown the occasional advertisement, but when it comes to the tracking of their data and the personalization of targeted advertising, it elicits a different response. It feels more personal and invasive.

As more and more users begin using Ad Blocking services in their daily lives, new methods must be introduced in order to disrupt the power that the current duopoly holds over user data.

Poll ran on Twitter from 17–18 March 2021 with 227 unique respondents from our Fractal audience

Based on current models, along with the data we gathered from internal polling, it seems Ad Blocking is here to stay. Fractal aims to improve upon this, and instead of outright blocking advertising from interacting with users, hopes to allow content creators to monetize their work by working with advertisers in a transparent, effective manner.

As the space continues to grow, we believe that the need for symbiotic relationships between users, advertisers, and content creators will be greater than ever. We are here to help build and foster those relationships and create a fair level playing field for the whole community.

About Fractal Protocol

Built on Polkadot, Fractal is an open-source, zero-margin protocol that defines a basic standard to exchange user information in a fair and open way, ensuring a high-quality version of the free internet. In its first version, it is designed to replace the ad cookie and give users back control over their data.

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This article does not include elements of any contractual relationship. This article shall not be deemed to constitute a prospectus of any sort or a solicitation for investment or investment advice; nor does it in any way pertain to an offering or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities in any jurisdiction.

For the avoidance of doubt, please note that the Protocol has not been fully developed. Any statements made about the Protocol are forward-looking statements that merely reflect Fractal’s intention for the functioning of the Protocol. There are known and unknown risks that can cause the results to differ from the forward-looking statements.

Fractal does not intend to express investment, financial, legal, tax, or any other advice, and any conclusions drawn from statements in this article or otherwise made by Fractal shall not be deemed to constitute advice in any jurisdiction.

Fractal’s intended purpose of the Tokens is to be used as means of payment for the services that will be offered within the Protocol (the “Services”). The purchase, ownership, receipt or possession of Tokens carries no rights, express or implied, other than the right to use Tokens as a means to enable usage of Services in accordance with the then-applicable terms of use relating to the Services offered within the Protocol. The Tokens do not represent or confer any ownership right or stake, share, security, or equivalent rights, or any right to receive future revenue shares, intellectual property rights or any other form of participation in or relating to the Protocol, Fractal, Service Providers or any of their corporate affiliates, other than any rights relating to the provision and receipt of Services, subject to the applicable terms, conditions or policies that may be adopted by participants in the Protocol.




Fractal builds real identities and privacy to empower real people. So you can secure, exchange and create value from your data in a decentralized way.

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