Opera has announced that it is launching a version of its desktop browser that will feature native adblocking – and that because the functionality is built into the engine core, access-times for adblocked pages run 45% faster than the Google Chrome browser running the Adblock Plus extension installed.
Krystian Kolondra, head of Opera desktop, posted today that the new version will initially be released into the Opera developer channel. The adblocking feature will be turned off by default, but prompts will occur on pages where blockable ads are embedded (and let’s face it, that’s probably 95% of them) suggesting that the user can turn adblocking on. The feature allows whitelisting, and uses Adblock Plus’s openly accessible EasyList blacklist API.
Kolondra notes not only the extraordinary improvement in page loading times, and that the new feature also provides a test-bed where uses can compare blocked and unblocked page-times for themselves.
Opera conducted comparative tests on the major web browsers using Adblock Plus, finding that its native adblocking runs 89% faster than Internet Explorer (version not stated), 45% faster than Chrome and 21% faster than Firefox. The testbed environment used WebDriver on an AMD Phenom II X6 processor with 8 GB of RAM running 64-bit Windows 10, loading each page 15 times and taking median values. Kolondra writes:
‘When we started profiling the performance of adblockers, we found that commonly available block lists are of great quality and can block a lot of ads. But,, many extensions spend a lot of time checking whether URLs or page elements occur in their block lists. Opera checks the block list using native code and fast algorithms, making the slowdown from checking negligible. Furthermore, Opera blocks ads as early as possible: right in the engine, when a network request for a URL is first being made.’
Adblocking has become a major business controversy in the last year, with issues of tracking, malware exploits combining with users’ almost universal hatred of autoplay video ads to force a global increase in adblocking of 41% between 2014-15, 98% of which users were in the desktop rather than the mobile space. However mobile network provider Three recently caused one of the greatest furores in the debate by announcing the rollout in 2016 of network-level adblocking in its European networks.
Opera’s bold move is likely to at least cause Chrome, Firefox, IE and Edge to consider the move, if that’s not already happening. The post echoes popular sentiment on the net in the last six months regarding the presence of online advertising and the ethics of blocking it, calling for ‘simpler’ and less intrusive ads:
‘People are clearly sending a signal to brands and advertisers that the current situation must change. It’s 2016, and we believe it’s time for ads to be lighter and faster. There’s the IAB L.E.A.N. initiative for better ads but where are the better ads themselves? Instead, we see a primer on how to convince users to disable adblocking. It’s a good step, but what if ads could be better, less intrusive and not slow down the browsing so significantly?’
Opera’s share of the browser market declined from its 2008 peak of 2.4% as Firefox and later Google Chrome picked up the debris from Microsoft’s years of developmental neglect of its own Internet Explorer browser, which had dominated the market in the late 1990s. However it hit a new peak of 2.5 in July of 2015, after years of directional changes, including the abandoning of a paid version – under which scheme the free version itself carried ads – and the move away from its proprietary rendering engine to the Webkit engine which underpins Apple’s Safari browser, and is derived from the Chromium project on which Google Chrome is based.