YouTube adds 5-second delay to punish ad blockers in all browsers

After a long day of anger and speculation, Google has finally commented on the “artificial wait” that some Firefox users are experiencing on YouTube. This 5-second delay, clearly visible in YouTube’s code, is intended to punish those who use ad blockers. This affects all browsers, not just Firefox.

Some YouTube users started experiencing a strange video lag in mid-November. This phenomenon became controversial on November 19, when a Reddit user accused YouTube of artificially slowing loading times in Firefox. The logic was quite simple. Delayed loading times were only seen in Firefox, and switching the user agent from Firefox to Chrome automatically fixed the issue.

Additional evidence came in the form of a short code snippet:setTimeout(function() { c(); a.resolve(1) }, 5E3);. This code, embedded in YouTube, proves that the five-second delay is intentional. But Reddit users failed to see the full picture. This fragment some code cannot check which browser you are using. And when you look at it full function which this code is part of, you will find that it does not include any browser agent checks.

To support a diverse ecosystem of creators globally and enable billions of people to access their favorite content on YouTube, we launched an effort to encourage viewers with ad blockers enabled to allow ads on YouTube or try YouTube Premium for an ad-free experience. Users with ad blockers installed may experience suboptimal viewing regardless of which browser they use.

Before Google commented on this story, some people speculated that the five-second delay was associated with ad blocking. They were right. When asked about the five-second delay, Google explained that “users with ad blockers installed may experience suboptimal viewing regardless of the browser they use.” This is corroborated by Firefox, which stated 404 Media that the five-second delay affects all browsers.

As you may know, YouTube has spent the last few months cracking down on ad blockers. It wants customers to subscribe to YouTube Premium, which costs $13.99 per month (and includes a YouTube Music subscription). Presumably the five-second delay is a crude way to ensure that ads actually show. Changing a browser’s user agent “fixes” the problem because it refreshes the web page: YouTube doesn’t need to serve an ad after refreshing, so it doesn’t enforce the five-second delay.

This is a pretty crude trick from Google. Ad blocking services can bypass the five-second delay with a simple filter. But Google is clearly looking for new ways to discourage the use of ad blockers, and a YouTube Premium subscription may be worth it if you can’t tolerate those annoyances. As for all things Firefox, well, Google knowingly reduced YouTube’s performance on non-Chrome browsers in 2018, so we can’t blame anyone for jumping to conclusions.

Source: Google via 404 Media

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