Desktop adblocking creeping back up to 2018 high

Declining numbers of publishers use adblock walls as a revenue recovery strategy for adblocking.

Adblocking is back on the rise after tailing off in 2020, with blocks on desktop almost reaching the high of 2018 last year.

By the end of 2021, there were 290 million users actively blocking ads on desktop, a reversal of trend after a slowdown between 2018 and 2020. Mobile users blocking ads declined slightly by the end of 2021, at 530 million, down from the 586 million high at the end of 2020.

New research from adblock revenue recovery service Blockthrough concludes that the reversal of trend on desktop is something publishers should monitor closely, since “advertising revenue from mobile web is still a relatively poor monetization environment for most publishers”, said Co-Founder and CEO Marty Krátký-Katz.

Acceptable Ads threshold passes 95%

Blockthrough noted that adblocking has moved from an “all or nothing” approach for both users and publishers to the most popular ad blockers allowing non-invasive ads that comply with Acceptable Ads standards governed by the Acceptable Ads Committee to be served to opted-in users.

Acceptable Ads now has a more than 95% average opt-in rate from users of browsers and supporting extensions, said the research, a 2% rise on last year’s findings. By the end of last year 216 million adblock users were opted into Acceptable Ads – up 50% from the start of 2019.

The growth was particularly noted among desktop users, from 115 million in 2019 to 128 million in 2021.

Adblock walls on decline

The study also found that across the top 100 US publishers, just one was solely relying on adblock walls as an income recovery strategy.  

Adblock walls detect the presence of an adblocker in a user session, and restrict access to content unless a user disables it or whitelists the website.

As part of the research Blockthrough carried out a UX (user experience) study on US users, which found that when confronted with an adblock wall, two-thirds rejected a request to turn it off and a further 16% left the site where they encountered it. 

The report noted that the study’s finding supports a survey of 5,000 US users last year, which found that around 80% of adblock users found adblock walls to be an “anti-user” tactic, so they don’t convert when confronted with one.

It concluded that the decline in adblock walls as a standalone strategy was due to a few reasons, including message fatigue – where the competition adblock walls faced with other pop-ups for user attention leads to annoyed users, low conversion and high bounce rates.

Blockthrough also cited “dark UX patterns”, found in the UX study, that showed most users were not able to spot the ‘x’ button to close the wall, and the “anti user approach” of adblock walls. 

“Adblock walls perpetuate the same fundamental problem that drives users to install adblocking extensions,” it said. 

Publisher readiness for adblocking 

The report also analysed the findings of a survey of 176 RevOps and AdOps professionals commissioned by Blockthrough late last year, which showed that 32% of publishers were not doing anything about adblocking and more than nine in 10 were not able to precisely quantify the revenue loss.

Less than half (43%) were confident that they knew the approximate level of adblocking on their sites, and a fifth (21%) admitted to never having tried to measure it. 


Just 29% confirmed that they had an adblocking revenue recovery strategy in place, compared to the 62% adoption rate of recovery strategies among the top 100 US publishers.