Opera Software has updated its desktop browser to block ads without the need for a plug-in.
With its 2.07 percent share of the desktop browser market last month, according to StatCounter, Opera's move is unlikely to scare advertisers, or website operators dependent on advertising revenue -- particularly as the blocker is turned off by default.
However, the browser might interest website operators, as with a single click it allows them to compare the load times of their sites with ads, and without, and gain some understanding of what their revenue generation may be costing them in lost visitors.
Some top websites load up to 90 percent faster without ads, according to Opera senior vice president for engineering Krystian Kolondra.
Put another way, that means adding ads to those sites makes them take ten times longer to load.
That's a big problem for publishers and advertisers, as 40 percent of visitors abandon websites that take more than three seconds to load, according to research by KissMetrics in 2011.
While ad-blocking technology is already available for the major desktop browsers in the form of plug-ins or add-ons, Opera has incorporated it right into the core of the application.
The blocker is turned off by default, but the browser will prompt users to enable it when it detects ads it could have blocked.
The ad-blocking code runs faster natively than it would as an add-on, Kolondra wrote in a blog post about the new browser feature.
How much faster? Well, in tests conducted by Opera, pages took around 45 percent longer to load in Google Chrome with the Adblock Plus extension than they did in the new version of Opera with its built-in ad blocker.
That's an impressive difference, but compared to the up-to-ten-times-longer load time with no ad blocker at all, those interested in ad blocking may not find it significant enough to want to change their browser when they already have, or can easily download, a plug-in.
When it comes to deciding which ads to block, Opera isn't reinventing the wheel: It's using the same blacklist as the browser extension Adblock Plus, EasyList.
Unlike Adblock Plus, the Opera browser doesn't use a whitelist of acceptable ads, because it starts off with ads enabled for each site. It's only once the user has decided that ads on a given site are unacceptable and clicked on a button in the toolbar that they are blocked.
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