Opera adds built-in adblocker to its browser

Opera is introducing a new version of its desktop browser with built-in adblocking, removing the need for a third-party extension.

The Norwegian software company has a history of innovations that later become common in other browsers, such as tabbed browsing. It was also an early pioneer of pop-up blocking, which targeted an earlier generation of in-your-face ads.

Opera says the move can reduce page-loading times by as much as 90% by preventing the browser having to make requests to ad networks, which slows page loading.

Because it is building the feature directly into its browser, page-load times are 40% faster than with existing adblocker plugins or browser extensions, the company claims.

More than 9 million (22%) of the UK’s internet users have an adblocker installed, a recent report found, and the proportion is considerably higher among 18- to 24-year-olds, with almost half using some form of adblocker.

Opera’s built-in adblocker will initially only be in the desktop version of its browser but it intends to add it to its mobile version in future. An Opera spokeswoman said: “Adblocking technology is an opportunity and a wake-up call to the advertising industry to pay attention to what consumers are actually saying.”

Faster loading, increased privacy and security and a desire for fewer distractions are behind the growing demand for adblockers, but their use is causing concern for publishers who rely on display advertising for revenue. Earlier this month the culture secretary John Whittingdale, called adblocking a ‘modern-day protection racket’.

A study by PageFair and Adobe (PDF) estimated online ad revenue lost to blockers in 2015 would amount to $21.8bn (£15.4bn) and those losses could almost double to $41.4bn in 2016. Ad-placement firm Carat forecasts global digital and mobile advertising will near $150bn this year.

Opera, which has agreed to a takeover by a group of Chinese firms led by Beijing Kunlun Tech in a cash deal valued at $1.23bn, introduced its first computer web browser in 1995.

With the rise of the smartphone, it shifted to focus on the mobile browser and advertising market, where it now derives most of its revenue, and has 281 million users.

The Oslo-based firm ranks a distant fifth behind mainstream desktop computers browsers from Microsoft, Google, Firefox and Apple. The company counts 60 million active monthly desktop users worldwide.

It relies on advertising in its browser for a big chunk of its own revenue but says it sees no contradiction with introducing adblocking controls that affect pages. An Opera spokeswoman said demand for adblocking should abate when messages became less disruptive and more relevant.

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