YouTube eliminates a workaround to block ads on videos

 The YouTube app listing on the Google Play Store, running on a Google Pixel 8 Pro.
The YouTube app listing on the Google Play Store, running on a Google Pixel 8 Pro.

What you need to know

  • YouTube started cracking down on users watching videos with ad blockers in October 2023, preventing video playback if an ad blocker is in use.

  • Now, the platform is also taking steps to block third-party apps from circumventing ads, and videos might not play properly while using apps that attempt to avoid ads.

  • As YouTube has consistently done, it is urging people to subscribe to YouTube Premium if they don't want to watch ads.

YouTube's attempt to thwart ad blockers on the platform now covers third-party apps, as explained in a community announcement on Monday, April 15. The video streaming site first started to crack down on users employing ad blockers to avoid watching ads in October 2023 in browsers. If you tried to watch a video on YouTube while using an ad blocker, playback would be paused until YouTube was whitelisted or the ad blocker was disabled. However, for months, a few apps could get around ads using YouTube's API.

That appears to be over, as YouTube says it is "strengthening our enforcement on third-party apps that violate YouTube's Terms of Service, specifically ad-blocking apps." A popular app that served as an alternative to watching YouTube ads was AdGuard, and some browsers include ad-blocking functionality as well. YouTube Vanced was another as well, before it shut down in 2022 due to legal reasons.

While YouTube's ad blocker crackdown on the web featured a pop-up that clearly instructed users to disable their ad-blocking software, the platform's approach to third-party apps with ad blockers is more subtle. Users who try to watch a YouTube video on one of these apps might notice buffering problems that prevent playback. Alternatively, the YouTube API might show "the following content is not available on this app" as an error message.

YouTube Premium homepage on Android
YouTube Premium homepage on Android

"We want to emphasize that our terms don't allow third-party apps to turn off ads because that prevents the creator from being rewarded for viewership," YouTube explains, "and Ads on YouTube help support creators and let billions of people around the world use the streaming service."

YouTube is once again pushing users who want an ad-free experience to subscribe to YouTube Premium. It costs $14 per month and, among other things, removes all ads on the platform. YouTube Premium subscribers can watch videos uninterrupted, but a portion of their subscription fee is still shared with creators in the YouTube Partner Program.

"When we find an app that violates these terms, we will take appropriate action to protect our platform, creators, and viewers," YouTube said.