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logo-verticalUpdated November 16, 2016

What we tested

We tested the core PageFair analytics feature by registering a new PageFair account and adding their JavaScript to a new WordPress website we created just for this test, following the directions. We used ten different ad block solutions to request pages with the PageFair script on it. We monitored PageFair’s traffic breakdown report, refreshing it once per minute, to determine whether the page views were seen at all, and whether all page views were correctly attributed as blocked or not blocked. While it usually takes about five minutes for analytics data to appear, we also waited hours to see whether the data was just somehow later than usual. We also examined the browser’s JavaScript console, looking for clues as to what caused the failures, which we describe below. Because we saw an unexpectedly high 80% failure rate, we then replicated those test results with an independent tester to verify that what we had initially seen was accurate. You should be able to replicate these test results yourself.

The test results

We tested ten different ad blockers and the results were that only the ad blockers color coded green were correctly identified by PageFair, while the red blockers either completely hid from PageFair running undetected, or were incorrectly attributed as nonblocked when they should have shown as blocked. These are the blockers we tested:

  1. AdBlock
  2. Adblock Browser for Android
  3. AdBlock Plus
  4. AdBlock Plus Content Blocker for iOS
  5. Brave Browser
  6. Ghostery
  7. Opera desktop with built-in blocker
  8. Opera Mini with built-in blocker
  9. uBlock Origin
  10. UC Browser

AdBlock

failWe tested AdBlock version 3.1.1, using the default settings, running on Chrome. PageFair successfully detected this ad blocker. However, after going to the AdBlock options and checking the box for the Easy Privacy list, PageFair completely failed to detect these page views at all. The reason for the complete failure here is that pagefair.com appears on the Easy Privacy filter list, and so consequently their analytics script gets blocked from loading. If you try embedding the script inline to avoid that problem, when it attempts to send anayltics out it will get blocked then. Publishers will not see these blocked page views at all.

Adblock Browser for Android

passWe tested Adblock Browser for Android version 1.1.1, using the default settings. PageFair successfully detected this.

AdBlock Plus

passWe tested AdBlock Plus version 1.12.2, using the default settings, running on Chrome. PageFair successfully detected this.

AdBlock Plus Content Blocker for iOS

failWe tested AdBlock Plus content blocker for iOS. PageFair incorrectly attributed blocked page views as unblocked page views. Publishers will incorrectly view iPhone and iPad users who are using the AdBlock Plus content blocker as non-blocked users.

Brave Browser

failWe tested the Brave browser version 0.12.0, using the default settings. PageFair failed to detect Brave and incorrectly attributed these page views as not blocked, even though they should have shown as blocked. That is, publishers will incorrectly see their Brave users as non-blocked.

Ghostery

failWe tested the Ghostery blocker version 7.0.1.4 on both Chrome, FireFox, and IE, as well as their dedicated Ghostery browser, using the default settings. PageFair failed to detect Ghostery and incorrectly attributed these page views as not blocked, even though they should have shown as blocked. That is, publishers will incorrectly see their Ghostery users as non-blocked.

Opera Desktop with built-in blocker

failWe tested the desktop Opera browser version 5.4.9.1 with built in ad blocking, using the default settings. PageFair failed to detect Brave and incorrectly attributed these page views as not blocked, even though they should have shown as blocked. That is, publishers will incorrectly see their Ghostery users as non-blocked.

Opera Mini with built-in blocker

failWe tested the mobile Opera Mini browser version 18.0.2254.106542 with built in ad blocking, using the default settings. Like it’s desktop twin, PageFair failed to detect Opera Mini and incorrectly attributed these page views as not blocked, even though they should have shown as blocked. That is, publishers will incorrectly see their Opera Mini users as non-blocked.

uBlock Origin

failWe tested uBlock Origin v1.9.4. Because this ad blocker comes with the EasyPrivacy list enabled by default, PageFair does not even detect a page view for uBlock users.

UC Browser

failWe tested UC Browser version 11.0.5.850, using the default settings. PageFair does not even detect a page view for uBlock users, so you don’t even know your UC Browsers were on your website, according to PageFair.

See the PageFair script fail for yourself

To see the PageFair script fail for yourself, follow these steps:

  1. If you are on desktop or laptop, add the EasyPrivacy list to your ad blocker by clicking on the link in this step. If you are using AdBlock (as opposed to AdBlock Plus) or if you are using uBlock, simply make sure the checkbox for EasyPrivacy (may also be called Privacy) is enabled on your options page.
  2. Visit PageFair’s website.
  3. Open your browser console. You can right-click/Inspect or hit F12, among other ways to do this.
  4. Look at your browser’s console. You will see the error message indicating that the PageFair JavaScript failed to execute, as shown below.

pagefair-fail

Google Analytics is also blocked by some blockers

As can be seen in the console snapshot above, Google Analytics is also blocked by some ad blockers. If a publisher is relying on an ad block detection script that sends its results to Google Analytics or similar systems, the publisher will be missing data to the extent that blockers block Google Analytics.

Conclusion

Ultimately, our research points to a rather frightening trend – publishers are being lulled into a false sense of security. They are relying upon technologies that do not accurately detect ad-blocking, and these inaccuracies are invisible to those who have implemented strategies to counter ad-blocking. This will become increasingly problematic as ad-blocking continues to expand dramatically on mobile and becomes increasingly sophisticated on desktop. Publishers need to be aware of these shortcomings, as the business implications are profound.

PageFair incorrectly attributes Brave users as nonblocked, incorrectly attributes AdBlock Plus for iOS users as nonblocked, and fails to see at all any user subscribing to the Easy Privacy filter list. By default, uBlock comes with the EasyPrivacy list enabled, PageFair will never record impressions from uBlock users.

We do not yet know the size of this inaccuracy, and we are investigating ways to measure how large this inaccuracy is. In the meantime, one thing we can conclude is that a publisher’s actual ad block rate is higher than what they see in PageFair.