By Natively Blocking Ads, Opera Offers a Significantly Faster Browsing Experience

Article by George Norman (Cybersecurity Editor)

on 10 Mar 2016

This is huge and a potential game-changer for Opera. The company recently announced that its eponymously-named web browser can natively block ads. That’s great not only because ads are annoying, but also because it significantly speeds up page load times.

This makes Opera the first major PC browser that features integrated ad-blocking technology. You don’t need an ad-blocking tool or an ad-blocking browser extension to get rid of ads, you just need to use the Opera web browser.

“Advertising fuels the internet, allowing for many services to be free for users. But, as our new research shows, most webpages today are significantly slowed down by bloated ads and heavy tracking. We don’t accept it - we want the web to be a better place for us all, as users,” said Krystian Kolondra, SVP of Engineering and Head of Opera for computers.

“Growing demand for ad-blocking tools tells us that the current approach to advertising is damaging user’s online experiences. It interrupts your web-surfing, slows down your browser, and, at Opera, we want to fix it," Kolondra continued.

Why native ad blocking matters

The obvious answer is because ads are annoying, distracting, and sometimes they’re downright dangerous.

The not so obvious answer is because it helps boost page load times – not by a little, but by a lot.

Opera uncovered that when the ad-blocking feature is enabled, webpages load up to 90% faster. Opera also uncovered that its native ad-blocking feature does better than 3rd party ad-blocking extensions, offering a 40% faster browsing experience on average.

“The improved performance is possible since the filtering happens at the web-engine level, where the browser can fully control the loading process of the webpage - something extensions can’t do,” Opera explained.

How Opera’s ad-blocking feature works

Opera can natively block ads, but it doesn’t do so unless you tell it to. You see, the ad-blocking feature is deactivated by default. When you visit a website, Opera will detect all the ads and will bring up a dialog which asks you if you want to block the ads or not.

The aforementioned dialog can do a bit more than just block ads. It tells you how many ads you’re blocking on the current webpage, how many ads you’ve blocked overall, and how much faster the webpage loads when ads are blocked.

The ad-blocking feature isn’t ready for the general public (yet)

Here’s the catch: only the newest Opera Developer version for desktop comes with the built-in, native ad-blocking technology. This means the technology is still in its infancy and it will take some time until its ready for the general public.

I have to remind you that Opera’s release cycle is made up of three channels:
  • Developer – offers a sneak peek of upcoming features and experiments that might make their way into future products.
  • Beta – presents the latest refinements to the Opera browser.
  • Final – the stable version that’s ready for the public.
New features are first introduced to the developer channel, then they graduate to the Beta channel where they’re tested some more and, if everything’s is okay, they eventually make it to the final version.

Wait, doesn’t Opera make money from ads?

You’re thinking about Opera Mediaworks, Opera’s mobile advertising and marketing platform.

On one hand, Opera has a subsidiary that sells ads. And on the other hand, Opera just rolled out a web browser that features built-in ad-blocking technology. It seems a bit weird, doesn’t it? The Register got in touch with Opera to find out what’s going on, and this is the answer they got:

“Opera’s advertising subsidiary, Opera Mediaworks, focuses on mobile in-app ads hence the addition of ad-blocking technology to the desktop browser doesn’t directly affect Opera Mediaworks’ revenues.

Also, Opera Mediaworks believes in providing the highest quality mobile advertising experience to the user by providing relevant, engaging and beautiful ads that don’t drain data usage powered by mobile-first technologies. We believe that ad-blocking technology is an opportunity and a wake-up call to the advertising industry to pay attention to what consumers are actually saying. We believe the need for ad blocking goes away if companies, such as Opera Mediaworks, focus on delivering a high-quality user experience by delivering non-disruptive, relevant and engaging ads.”

In related news...

Here’s an infographic that explains how much ad blocking use has increased for the past few years, presents the most popular reasons why people use ad blocking, and covers lots of other interesting details about ad blocking.

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