While advertising is an important part of the internet, much of today’s web is plagued with slow loading ads. Cumbersome ads are one of the main reasons why people choose to use an ad blocker. These ads are also a major issue for the websites themselves.
To illustrate the problem, we have released results from a new online research which shows that we lose, on average, more than half of the time spent waiting for pages to load due to bad ads, slowing down the browsing experience.
The research was done manually with the speed test tool built into the Opera browser. You can run a speed benchmark test yourself to check how quickly any web page loads with ad blocking turned on, as well as how many ads were blocked. The time difference shows how long a page would load if ads and ad trackers were blocked or unblocked.
Bloated ads haven’t gone away
Last year, we challenged the online ad industry by releasing a built-in ad blocker to push the idea that there should be a switch towards more user-friendly ads. However, the switch towards lighter ads is moving too slow, causing more and more people to start blocking ads.
Bloated ads remain the main performance issue for billions of users around the world. They waste valuable time every day as we wait for our web content to display.
Opera conducted its online ad research* on the nine most popular news websites worldwide (according to SimilarWeb). The results showed that, on average, a single website is 51% slower when loading with unblocked ads (3.8 seconds) compared when loading with blocked ads (1.89 seconds). In other words, news websites could be displayed 51% faster if ads were blocked.
In total, heavy and slow ads cause billions of lost browsing hours every month, all time that could be spent for other, more productive activities.
Another test** we made showed that ads significantly reduce the laptop battery life. With ad block turned on, the battery life when browsing was 5 hours and 14 minutes. Without an ad blocker, battery life was shortened to 4 hours and 39 minutes. This translates into a 12.9% loss. Assuming that the average user spends over four hours daily on the internet, ads squeeze their laptop battery life by over 31 minutes per day, and almost 15 hours and 39 minutes every month.
People are looking for solutions
Modern standards for light, non-intrusive online ad formats have, unfortunately, not been widely implemented by the ad industry yet. This situation causes the demand for ad blocking to continue to increase. Since ad block extensions are still too slow, built-in ad block technologies are gaining interest in the browser industry.
With serious performance issues, a shift towards less intrusive and privacy-friendly online ad practices is the most urgent challenge for the web today. Brands and advertisers need to finally understand this.
*Opera conducted its tests on the nine most popular news websites worldwide (according to SimilarWeb). For each website, we repeated the tests five times and calculated the average loading time with both disabled and enabled native ad blocking. The difference was the average time we waste on loading a news website. We multiplied it by the average number of pages our users view. The tests were performed on a machine running Windows 10 x64, using an i7-6500U CPU and 8GBs of RAM.
**We used a 14″, i3-5005U, 4GB, 500GB HDD computer with Win 10 using the balanced power profile. The backlight was set to 100% throughout the testing. There was no other software running in the foreground. Laptops were placed on a wooden surface for similar heat exchange.
The browser was automated using WinAPI event injection. For battery status information, IOCTL_BATTERY_QUERY_STATUS was used.
Battery remaining capacity was measured once per minute.
In each configuration (with native ad blocking disabled and enabled), the test was run for two hours.
The tests were done in four steps:
Step 1: Configure the system.
Charge the battery to 100%.
Step 2: Load facebook.com, google.com, amazon.com, yahoo.com, wikipedia.org, vk.com, live.com, twitter.com, youtube.com– in separate tabs.
Step 3: In a loop, scrolling activity was simulated in one of the tabs:
For 30 seconds, pressing the Down Arrow was simulated every 100 milliseconds with
5 seconds of idle time
For 30 seconds, pressing the Up Arrow was simulated every 100 milliseconds with
15 seconds of idle time
Step 4: Each minute, the present battery capacity was recorded.