YouTube is currently experimenting with 'Server-Side Ad Injection' to counter ad blockers

YouTube is currently testing a new Server-side ad injection to counter ad blockers. What is it? This means that the ad is being added directly into the video stream - Normally, ads are inserted into videos on your device (client-side). Server-side ad injection means the ads are baked into the video stream before reaching you. Why YouTube is testing it?  Ad blockers are a constant battle for YouTube. This method bypasses them by making the ads an inseparable part of the video. This could make ad blocking more difficult. It might also affect tools like SponsorBlock that rely on timestamps to skip sponsored segments. It's important to remember that server-side ad injection is still just an experiment at this point. There's no guarantee that YouTube will roll it out to all users.

SponsorBlock in a blog post on its official X (SponsorBlock (@sponsorblock@fosstodon.org)), shared today that 

“YouTube is currently experimenting with server-side ad injection. This means that the ad is being added directly into the video stream. This breaks sponsorblock since now all timestamps are offset by the ad times.”

How Do Ads Work on YouTube Now?

Traditionally, YouTube uses client-side ad injection. This means the ads are separate from the videos themselves. When you watch a video, a script on your device (computer, phone, etc.) tells the video player to pause the content and display an ad at specific points.

This system has its drawbacks. For one thing, it allows viewers to use ad blockers, which are extensions or programs that prevent ads from showing up. Ad blockers are a major headache for YouTube and advertisers alike, as they cut into potential revenue.

What is Server-Side Ad Injection?

With server-side ad injection, the whole process is flipped. Instead of the ads being inserted on your device, they are spliced directly into the video stream before it reaches you. This means the ads become an inseparable part of the video itself.

Why is YouTube Testing This?

There are a couple of reasons why YouTube might be exploring this new approach. First and foremost, it's a way to try and counter ad blockers. Since the ads are part of the video stream itself, ad blockers wouldn't be able to remove them without also removing parts of the actual content.

Another potential benefit is improved ad targeting. By having more control over ad delivery, YouTube could potentially show viewers ads that are more relevant to their interests.

What Does This Mean for Viewers?

If server-side ad injection becomes widespread, it could mean a few things for viewers:

  1. Fewer ways to block ads: Ad blockers might become less effective, or even obsolete.
  2. Unskippable ads? It's possible that some or all server-side injected ads could be unskippable.
  3. Smoother ad experience? On the other hand, server-side ad injection could lead to a smoother ad experience, with less buffering or glitches.

Server-side ad injection is a significant change that could impact how we experience YouTube. It's too early to say for sure what the long-term effects will be, but it's definitely something to watch closely.

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