The escalating “arms race” in the adblocking arena.

Have you noticed how, despite installing adblocking software on your computer or mobile device, a lot of online advertising is still making it through to you?

That isn’t just your imagination. It’s happening – and it’s getting worse.

According to a recent report based on findings prepared by researchers at the University of Iowa, Syracuse University and the University of California – Riverside, the extent of “end runs” being successfully made around adblockers is quite high – and it’s growing.

According to the research, more than 30% of the Top 10,000 Alexa-ranked websites are thwarting adblockers in order that millions of visitors will continue to see online advertisements despite running adblocking software.

As the universities’ report states:

“Online publishers consider adblockers a major threat to the ad-powered ‘free’ web. They have started to retaliate against adblockers by employing anti-adblockers, which can detect and stop adblock users.   

To counter this retaliation, adblockers in turn try to detect and filter anti-adblocking scripts.”

Some of the more “forthright” publishers are being at least a little transparent about the process – first asking visitors to stop blocking ads. If those appeals go unheeded, the next step is to notify visitors that if they fail to whitelist the site, they will no longer be able to access any of its content.

The problem with this scenario is that many visitors simply go elsewhere for content when faced with such a choice. Still, it’s nice that some online publishers are giving people the choice to opt in … in an environment where the publisher’s content can be monetized to some degree.

Other sites aren’t so courteous; instead, they’re overriding the adblock software and serving up the advertising anyway. That certainly isn’t the way to “make friends and influence people.”

But “violating consumer intent” is kind of where we are in this arena at the moment, unfortunately.

What’s up with personal assistant apps?

Apple Siri loses a chunk of users, but it still possesses the biggest share of the AI-powered personal assistant apps market.

With the entry of new personal assistant apps, it’s only logical that there would be a shift in market share between the established players and the upstarts.

That trend is underscored in statistics recently published by Verto Analytics which are based on behavioral data gleaned from ~20,000 U.S. consumers via passive metering of their digital devices.

According to Verto, the current share of usage among the seven top personal assistant apps breaks down as follows:

  • Apple Siri: 41MM monthly U.S. users (~44%)
  • Samsung S Voice: 23MM (~25%)
  • Google Text-To-Search: 20MM (~21%)
  • Google Home: 5MM (~5%)
  • Amazon Alexa: 3MM (~3%)
  • Google Allo: 1MM (~1%)
  • Microsoft Cortana: 1MM (~1%)

These stats show the degree to which the top three apps continue to dominate the U.S. market. However, they don’t tell the entire story.  A more interesting trend is what’s happening with the number of monthly users by app. In the case of Siri, its monthly user figure has dropped a full 15% in the past year – or about 7 million monthly users lower than in 2016.

Samsung, #2 on the list, also experienced a decline in monthly users – in its case a drop of 8%, or about 2 million fewer users compared to 2016.

Google Home also experienced a slide in subscribers, although #3 ranged Google Text-To-Search did grow.

The biggest growth trends in personal assistant apps were experienced by Alexa (up ~325%) and Cortana (up ~350%). Both apps were starting from a very low baseline, however, and today they still number only around 3 million and 1 million monthly users respectively.

Another interesting dynamic is the level of engagement each of these personal assistant apps generates. As it turns out, there is a direct correlation between overall user growth and levels of engagement, so it’s pretty clear where most of the “go-go” action is at the moment:  Alexa and Cortana.

Perhaps most significantly, the Verto report suggests that personal assistant apps are of more utility to users than search apps such as Google or Yelp. Approximately 45% of smartphones owned by U.S. adults contained a personal assistant app that was used at least once during the month of May 2017.  Compare that to the percent of smartphones that had a search app installed over the same period:  just 34%.

It goes to show that among personal assistant apps broadly, the market is quite robust even if it’s fragmenting rather than consolidating.

The world of social media: Facebook here, there and everywhere.

If you think that Facebook has a hammerlock on social media across the world … you’re not off by much.

Facebook NetworkSocial media strategist Vincenzo Cosenza publishes a periodic world map of social networks in which he identifies the social networks that are the most popular in each of the 137 countries he tracks.

His evaluation is facilitated by a combination of website tracking data as aggregated by Alexa and other similar tools.

In viewing how the social media map has changed over time, what we see is that “Facebook blue” now dominates to such a major extent that the world map is looking more and more like a map of the British Empire – with the Spanish and Portuguese Empires thrown in for good measure.

In fact, according to Cosenza’s latest map, Facebook is the dominant social network in no fewer than 130 of the 137 countries being tracked.

That’s ~95% of them.

Not surprisingly considering their large populations, Facebook boasts the most members in the United States, followed by Brazil and then India.  (Brazil overtook India in the rankings in 2012.)

Each year, a few new counties are added to the Facebook column.  Sometimes the shifts are small (Moldova and Latvia are the latest), but this comparison between 2009 and 2014 maps certainly shows the overall trend towards Facebook, including such high-population countries as India, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines:


global map of social media networks

Of course, a few of the non-Facebook countries are home to a big chunk of the world’s population:

  • China is dominated by QZone
  • VKontakte is the social platform of choice in Russia
  • Iran remains closed to Facebook or any other Western social media, although long-dominant Cloob has been replaced by Facenama as the largest social network there.

As for which social networks are vying for the #2 position after Facebook – in most cases, it’s LinkedIn, Badoo and Twitter.

But when it comes to true competition, it’s really just Facebook and then … all the rest.