OSLO/LONDON: Advertisers troubled by the growth of ad blocking have been able to console themselves with the thought that "there's always native", but no longer as web browser Opera has introduced a native ad-blocking feature.

A blog post explained that "While browsing, Opera will detect whether there are ads that can be blocked, and it will suggest enabling the ad-blocking feature".

Users are able to activate or deactivate ad-blocking for specific websites and to benchmark the load speed of the current webpage with and without the ad-blocker enabled.

"If there were no bloated ads, some top websites would load up to 90% faster," Opera noted. And it claimed its own ad-blocking feature was on average 45% faster compared to browsing on Google Chrome with the popular AdBlock Plus extension.

That's because Opera's blocking happens at the web engine level, unlike extensions which can spend time checking whether URLs or page elements occur in their block lists.

The notion of a competitive market in ad-blocking software will alarm publishers and advertisers, but Opera was at pains to point out that it is simultaneously providing a tool to help advertisers and users understand the problem of heavy ads.

"We believe this will accelerate the change that the ad industry needs to pursue," it said.

The need to reduce page load times and the intrusiveness of advertising was highlighted by Dominic Good, global advertising sales and strategy director at the Financial Times, during a panel session at the recent ISBA Annual Conference.

"Ad blockers have certainly made us aware there's an issue, with a lot of rubbish on the web and a lot of rubbish advertising and we need to clean that up," he said.

But he also noted that just 4% of FT readers had rated their ad experience as poor/very poor. "The vast majority of our readers are perfectly happy to consume the advertising and understand that it's part of the value exchange," he said.

UK government minister John Whittingdale made similar points at the conference as he likened the problems of ad blocking to those presented in the past by piracy, and which had been solved by education, industry measures and help from government.

The industry needs to get across the message to people that they can't have something for nothing, he said. It also needs to start "making ads more attractive and less annoying".

He suggested government could convene a round table with the advertising industry, content providers and ad blockers to discuss the challenges and what measures can be taken.

Data sourced from Opera; additional content by Warc staff