Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Adblock penetration has doubled in three years

Three years ago, I did some back of a fag packet maths to estimate the penetration of Adblock amongst UK internet users. It's something that's not easy to get data on, which surprises me because it's potentially pretty important. Yes, you don't pay for internet ads that are never served to users, but Adblock has the potential to severely limit the reach of an online campaign. You'd think at least the SEO community would want to know how many people run Adblock, because those people don't see paid search ads, making SEO all the more powerful.

For the uninitiated, Adblock sits in your internet browser - usually Firefox or Chrome - and blocks the links that are used to serve advertising. You see a website as normal, just with no ads on it and the mechanics are clever enough that it doesn't leave big white spaces on the page where the advertising would normally be. The site's regular content is flowed into the gaps left by ads that have been removed.

If you ask me, I think it's brilliant. Shhhhhh, don't tell anyone.

Three years ago, my best guess based on Firefox users running Adblock was a total UK internet user penetration of around 2.2%. Not really enough to worry about back then, but what about in 2012?

Since 2009, Firefox and Chrome have continued to grow, to a point where between them, they account for very nearly 50% of browser usage.

Both of these browsers can run a variety of blocking software and so potentially, we're looking at a lot more people avoiding adverts than we were three years ago.

This is where the maths gets a bit vague, but stay with me.

It's hard to get figures for how many users run blocking software, but Mozilla do share daily active user numbers for the Firefox addon.

Globally, we've got 15m daily active users of Adblock on Firefox.

And in mid 2010, we had 120m users of Firefox itself. These are the most recent stats I can find unfortunately. If we project the trend forward to 2012, we should be on about 150m active Firefox users by now.

Globally, that would give a penetration within the Firefox user base of around 10%.

Lets assume Chrome is about the same and is also running at about 10% penetration. We're going to have to assume that one, because I can't find any stats beyond "1,000,000+" users for Adblock on Chrome, via the Chrome webstore.

We saw earlier that Firefox and Chrome together account for 50% of browsers. I'm going to make a further assumption that virtually nobody using Internet Explorer has an ad blocking plugin installed. Plugins do exist, but it you're using Explorer, then you're almost certainly not the sort of user who's found out about Adblock. I'll leave Safari and Opera to one side too, in the interests of our estimate being deliberately aimed towards the low end. Adding to the low end nature of this guess are a variety of other plugins, which do a similar job to Adblock and which I haven't included.

So, 50% of browsers are Firefox or Chrome, and 10% of those users have Adblock installed = 5% total penetration. Ish.

Using a similar method to 2009, we've got a more than doubling of usage, from 2.2% then, to 5% now. It's still not so big that you'd panic, but is starting to become a significant minority of internet users, who don't see any of the paid-for advertising that brands throw at the web.

See you back here in another three years for more fag packet maths and the conclusion that it's broken the 10% mark?

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