Firefox slow to load YouTube? Just another front in Google's war on ad blockers

Search giant says delays not specific to any browser – just those evading advert breaks. YMMV

Google has admitted its efforts to discourage the use of ad blockers now includes delaying the start of videos – a deliberate "suboptimal viewing" experience, as the corporation put it.

Earlier this year, YouTube began interrupting videos for those using advert blockers with a pop-up encouraging them to either disable the offending extension or filter, or pay for YT's ad-free premium tier.

More recently, netizens have reported experiencing delays in playback when using non-Chrome browsers as well.

Upon launching a video, Firefox users have reported a delay of roughly five seconds before playback would begin. In a statement to The Register, Google admitted it was intentionally making its content less binge-able for users unwilling to turn off offending extensions, though this wasn't linked to any one browser.

"Ads are a vital lifeline for our creators that helps them run and grow their businesses," a Google spokesperson explained. "In the past week, users using ad blockers may have experienced delays in loading, regardless of the browser they are using."

To be clear, Google's business model revolves around advertising, and ad blockers are specifically called out as being in violation of its terms of service. Google also makes Chrome, the widely-used browser that Mozilla's Firefox and others try to compete against.

Unfortunately, the method used by Google to detect the presence of ad blockers and trigger the delay appears to be prone to false positives. Several netizens have reported experiencing delays when using Firefox or Microsoft's Edge browser without an ad blocker installed.

Google told us users who have uninstalled their ad blockers may continue to experience temporary delays loading videos, though the issue should resolve itself after "refreshing their browser."

The Register was unable to replicate this behavior in Firefox with or without an ad blocker enabled. This suggests Google could be experimenting to see just how far it can push users to convince them to turn off their ad blockers for good. In other words, not all netizens will or have experienced this delay.

YouTube said its ad block detection does not target any specific browsers, and that people who continue to use ad blockers may experience degraded or interrupted service as its detection efforts evolve.

Google's efforts to deter ad blockers don't stop there. As we reported earlier this month, the search giant will be pushing ahead with a planned API change in June that will render legacy Chrome extensions – including ad blockers – useless unless they are overhauled.

While it's entirely possible to refactor ad blockers to support the new API – dubbed Manifest V3 – certain functionality including content blocking will likely be diminished. To what extent remains unclear – though some, including AdGuard CTO Andrey Meshkov, are optimistic about the transition, saying it will be able to port to the new platform. ®

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