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YouTube now shows "An error has occurred" while ads running (adblockplus.org)
155 points by ZachSaucier on March 12, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 123 comments

Going to Google Ads setting[0] and turning off "Ads based on your interests" stopped the delay for me.

[0] https://www.google.com/settings/u/0/ads/authenticated?hl=en

Alternative hypothesis (assuming a bug rather than intended behavior): YouTube is testing a new ad mechanism, and the new mechanism (rather naturally) wasn't tested on systems blocking ads; it then produces a delay if the ad can't be downloaded, rather than silently skipping it.

But yeah, I do tend to watch most of my videos through youtube-dl these days, even though the HTML5 player works fine for me in Firefox without any ads.

> it then produces a delay if the ad can't be downloaded

I work for video site and wrote the player we use, and this is exactly that I think would be happening. Our player has a similar issue, and it even sometimes occurs with no ad blocker.

The player I wrote loads ads via the VAST specification, which is pretty much what the entire web uses for ads. This means we have to make a client side request for an xml document, parse it, then see if it has an ad unit we can show. Even if we don't get an ad there can end up being multiple round trips due to the way VAST and the ad networks work, thus delay.

Additionally, it might be possible that the ad blocker is silently dropping the request, which would result in a request timeout before moving on to the actual video content.

> it then produces a delay if the ad can't be downloaded, rather than silently skipping it.

I've seen at least two other popular video sites over the years that had this symptom. (Can't remember them, maybe Hulu 6+ years ago?) One of them would occasionally have a weird overlap of the end of a commercial and the video. My guess was that the video was was queued to start playing after the length of the ad by some ad-independent logic.

CBS has had this issue in the past as well with their player.

> videos through youtube-dl these days

how do you find the video you want without using youtube? do you just use the youtube search interface then download the video by copying the url (w/o even clicking on the link to start the video buffer)

I browse the site and copy the URL. Often, I'll copy the URL of a playlist, and use -A to download and number a series of videos.

Or, for something sufficiently ephemeral, I'll hand the URL directly to mpv and let it stream. Particularly useful if I suspect I won't care to watch the entire video. And I find mpv's player interface far better than YouTube's.

Occasionally I still use the browser video player as well.

I use the web interface and have a keybinding in my web browser to download the video using youtube-dl and play it in mpv.

If you want to completely bypass the web interface, you can subscribe to channels by RSS.

youtube-dl can fetch a video via its ID, the part after the "/watch?v=<ID>" in the URL. Combined with a video player, such as vlc, mpv, mpc-hc or similar, you can stream youtube videos without viewing from the youtube website. There are scripts available that make this less DIY, such as ones that launch your video player with youtube-dl when you load a page on youtube, though I do not have any of those on hand to show you.

The question was more about discovery than how the tool worked... I'd imagine he doesn't watch much YouTube but just uses youtube-dl when the videos are found on other sites.

I watch a bit of YouTube, but I only use YouTube-dl to doownload videos I really like - like abridgements or YTPs - stuff that can easily be copyright notice'd down

You can stream videos through VLC even if you don't download them. Just Select File->Open Network, and put in the url of the YouTube video.

you could search (and watch) with mps-youtube:


incidentally, you could also just use google.

i just have rss feeds of the accounts i have subscribed to in my feedreader.

> it then produces a delay if the ad can't be downloaded

That's exactly how Chinese video websites like Youku and Sohu Video work.

> assuming a bug rather than intended behavior ... rest of your comment

So you also concluded: it's not a bug, but an intentional "feature" to suppress ad-blockers

> assuming a bug rather than intentional malice

lol, no malice here, it's their websites they can do whatever they want and they are far from stupid, they test all these things.

I'll still block ads and if Google prevents me from seeing Youtube content so be it. I'm not going to disable my ad blocker anyway.

The fight against ads is getting interesting. Let's see who gets the "last word".

Testing every combination in advance isn't possible even for large corporations, because browsers in the wild vary so much, as do the computers they run on.

It should show up in production monitoring, though.

They absolutely can; the question then becomes how much they can do so without driving some traffic to secondary sites. Right now, YouTube enjoys massive mindshare; pushing ads too hard could cause people to start remembering that other video sites exist (whether for video hosting, or competitors for the same user attention spans like Netflix and Amazon).

(Also, I was using the phrase as a callback to the classic expression; I changed it to "intended behavior" to better reflect my intent.)

    > the question then becomes how much they can do so
    > without driving some traffic to secondary sites
Pretty far, while Adblock allows you to whitelist some sites. YouTube, boardingarea.com, and listentotaxman.com are the only sites I have whitelisted, and presumably have had forever.

I am pretty sure blocking Youtube ads is the lifeline for most ad-blockers...

Your fight against ads is a pretty selfish endeavor. Sure, there are some sites which abuse ads, but by visiting a website, you are getting a free service. And for YouTube, the cost is that you sometimes have to wait 3-15 seconds for an ad to play. Blocking ads on YouTube takes away from video content creators and Google.

It's quite staggering to think the risk adblocking poses to Google's business.

They have virtually no business apart from ads.

AFIAK they have marketshare in the UK (and maybe US) which surpasses print+tv.

Can you imagine this 40 years ago? An invention which cuts out newspaper ads and time travels broadcast TV past the commercials?


Google has two importantly different kinds of ads.

One is where you are searching something and they show you relevant offerings. Here, people are often happy to see the results, as they can move them toward their goal.

The other is where you are trying to do something (read a blog post, watch a video) and they want you to do something else (read about somebody's product, watch a video advertisement). Here many people are resistant, as it takes them away from their chosen activity.

My understanding is that Google makes most of their money from the first kind of ad, and that ad blockers mainly block the second. So I don't think this is a very big deal for them. In Google's shoes, I'd happily let people run ad blockers if they wanted. One, those people were unlikely to click on ads anyhow. And two, it's dangerous money. For their long-term success, they're much better off if they're doing things that customers actually like.

It's dangerous when companies get hooked on money that requires them to work against their users. Look at how much trouble TV networks have had adapting, for example; they just aren't clear on how to make great TV in the same way that places like HBO are. Or look at the sad, slow fall of Yahoo, which has always thought of itself as a media company. They were never able to do much with customer-focused acquisitions like Flickr because they never could quite understand them.

To phrase the dichotomy more simply...

One type of ad is about recognition.

The other type is about solving a problem.

To me, this largely boils down to CPC vs CPM. It will be interesting to see how the market evolves to embrace (or discard) these different types.

I don't care for either type of ad. I've never intentionally clicked an ad that came up in a search result.

My last cofounder had done a ton of user testing on shopping-related behaviors, and it turns out you (and me, generally) are atypical.

He had one session where he told a guy to shop for something he was likely to buy soon. The guy opened up Google, searched for something, and said, as if sharing a secret, "Ignore the stuff in the middle. The really good stuff is here on the side."

That guy was odd in how excited he was, but most people are pretty happy to see relevant advertising when they are seeking something. E.g., Computer Shopper magazine was popular for years with the nerd set, and I have fashion-oriented friends who love getting the big seasonal magazines that are mostly ads. My dad hasn't bought a car or a house for years, but he still likes looking through newspaper ads occasionally just to see what's on offer.

It's definitely not my style, though.

    > to think the risk adblocking poses to Google's
    > business
It's quite staggering to think of the opportunity that owning almost the entire nascent micropayments industry would be.

Between Google Checkout and the size of their existing advertising infrastructure, doesn't seem a reach.

Content owners don't care if they're getting a check from people viewing ads, or people micro-paying, as long as the check is about the same size.

They have all kinds of other businesses besides the ad (which is a large percentage of their revenue). Cloud services, maps, email for work. Very soon they will be selling self driving car systems, which is going to be huge. Even if they made zero through ads, being a search engine, they can charge for positioning. Or they can start their own businesses in literally any area, and drive all the traffic they want to them.

Ads are still about 94% of Google's revenue.

And as I said, if the ads die, they will charge for positioning in the search results.

I'm also pretty sure there are many ways to get around adblock, like rendering the ads on the server instead of a script tag.

YouTube is free. It's free because Google pays for it via ads. If you aren't watching ads, then you're effectively not paying for the content. Exactly what are people expecting to happen and why are they mad at Google here? Why do they feel like they're owed something for nothing?

If you don't like it, go launch and finance your own free-to-watch-no-ads-included video site.

I agree. I adblock but I fully expect web businesses to do everything in their power to stop me; if they think that's in their best interests. We're all looking out for number one.

   OTA TV is free. It's free because the network pays for it via ads. If you aren't watching ads, then you're effectively not paying for the content.

Incorrect. It's free because Google pays for it by:

- tracking users both on YouTube and outside of it

- then using the collected data to sell more targeted ads

If it were just ads, then far fewer people would care about watching them (at least in the HN demographic). So if you are going to use this argument, please use it correctly.

My comment is actually quite correct. The reality is YouTube generates revenue in numerous ways and only one of which I pointed out as it pertained to the discussion at hand.

> If you aren't watching ads, then you're effectively not paying for the content.

What if the user doesn't watch ads but allows Google to track them outside of YouTube, and then Google uses that data to sell higher priced ads elsewhere? Ads you may allow because not all websites are obnoxious about how they serve ads. That is another way you are paying for YouTube content. It's disingenuous [via your original statement] to state that not watching YouTube ads means you aren't paying for the content. Users are already paying for the content in a lot of other ways that aren't immediately transparent. Hence why I said you're incorrect. You are leaving out information to support your stance and make the issue black and white when in reality, it isn't so simple.

If Google/YouTube doesn't like the autonomy we have over the http protocol, then it should launch its own proprietary medium/protocol/platform for its ad-driven business. The web is built in a way that allows me to choose how I render content.

It's free because it was free before Google bought it in '06.

The world wide web was based on the idea of sharing, not paying for content by being forced to watch ads that I would never ever watch intentionally. Or do you want the internet to be like television?

its probably whats going to happen. Wait, its already happening.

http://zeronet.io/ for example. served by users for users. all you pay is your ISP, thats IT.

"Works everywhere" except on mobile devices which is a major consumer of video today.

It's definitely an interesting ideas but a long ways away from being somethings the masses can use easily.

I don't have to do that, I can just use an ad blocker.

Besides, what are you complaining about? If you don't like people's opinions, go launch your own forum where you're free to pay for useless ads all day long and ban anyone who disagrees.

It's awfully ironic, IMO. We believe everyone else's information wants to be free- but MY information, oh my information wants to be strongly encrypted and inaccessible even to the courts.

I use uBlock Origin and youtube appears to still be fine for me. Maybe Google is targeting AdBlock first and then they'll start trying to detect others maybe? I guess this all depends if they're actually indeed penalizing people for blocking ads in the first place.

i use uBlock Origin.

and eff's privacy badger

and tampermonkey w/ anti-adblock killer reek script.

zero issues playing youtube all day long

huh, interesting. i am using ublock origin (on chrome) and was getting this error earlier. shift+f5 didn't fix it. turned off ublock origin as a test and the video played.

perhaps i'm flagged some other way on the backend and it then tries a test for ad block?

Haven’t looked into it, but this looks like an unintentional technical error. Google tends to optimize their websites for Chrome, so other browsers like Firefox have to deal with issues like this, regularly.

I've been amazed that adblockers work on videos since I started using them. It seems like it wouldn't be much trouble at all to simply embed the ad in the video stream. It does let people skip past the ad, but I'm not sure how important that is. If they start doing that, you could do the heavy-handed approach of re-encoding the video to show the ad(or a spot for the ad to be filled in by the server) side-by-side and allow them to 'opt in' to the old Javascript solution by disabling their ad blocker.

Transcoding all those videos every time the ads need to change or to target every audience sounds nightmarish. It'd make sense for the most popular videos, but the long tail would definitely remain with sidecar ads.

I agree with this sentiment. It was weird to watch HBO's new edition of the Godfather (7.5hr one) with ads embedded in the video—but it felt much more like TV.

Maybe the wrong thread for the question, but what is the appeal of an 8hr recut of the movies? What is being added?

There is a myriad of new clips that have been added. I found that it really added to the story--but did lengthen the film quite a bit.

I think it was really smart to have edited those out because they ultimately did not change the meanings in the movie while making it quite a bit longer. However, having watched the trilogy a few times already, I found these new clips to add a lot of depth to the characters and the progression of the movie. You have to understand that the 7 and half hours do not include the 3rd film. The 2 films and new clips account for the entire length.

Also, this recut is in chronological order--and does not use flashbacks. I found this to work really well for me because I had already seen the film many times. However, I do agree with the decision to use flashbacks for first-time viewers as the parallelism Coppola draws is amazing. The chronological recut did add a new perspective on the film that I enjoyed.

I got this earlier this week (uBlock user). Everything worked fine under the same account with uBlock turned off (good Lord, didn't realize how many ads they've added since I last disabled adblock), so I don't think this is an account-level flag but rather some new way of serving ads that fails into "An error has occurred" rather than serving the video immediately. Interesting development in the ads vs blockers war but I doubt there's any account flagging going on right now.

You can practice mindfulness in the mean time, and your brain still isn't polluted with crappy ideas.

That's still a win in my book.

I used to visit a site that mandated turning off the ad blocker and paused the ad if you left the page. Thankfully, there was a countdown, and the page was large enough to scroll past the video while the ad was running.

I became remarkably good at estimating how long wait down there (with the sound off) before scrolling back up...

I'd sign up for a low tier Red. Don't watch too many videos maybe $1/$2 month for an ad free vid limit or ability to buy instant skips

This is the only reasonable response to this news. I find it remarkable how many people expect their content for free.

I guess that's a direct result of being given content for free for the better part of two decades. During the videotext/minitel days it was quite common to pay for content.

I would probably watch 95% fewer YouTube videos if I actually had to pay money for them.

As a Red subscriber, I can tell you that the opposite is probably true. When there's no longer any risk of being annoyed by unskippable ads, you tend to click on a lot more video links (and waste a lot more time.)

YT Red is worth it IMHO.

Exactly this. I got some free time with youtube red when I got a nexus 6p. In spite of already having spotify, I purchased some more google play music all access (which includes Red) simply to keep the ad-free youtube.

There are ways to get it for $5/mo. I can't believe people don't do that if they watch more than a few hours/month of youtube.

You mean if you had to pay per video/per view?

I've signed up for the family plan on Google Play which also includes YouTube Red. $15/month for up to five family members, can't beat that and that eliminates the YouTube ads.

It's 'free' with a Google Music subscription.

What about the notion of something like some of us did with Flash content? I symlinked .adobe and .macromedia to /dev/null and was able to watch Flash content without the LSOs/SuperCookies being downloaded to my drive -- they were written to the bit bucket.

Does anyone think it's possible to write a Perl/Python/Bash program to basically achieve the same thing? To "convince" the site the ads are coming down but they never get seen? This could be browser independent/act as a sort of proxy. I realize Privoxy does something like this, but gets detected.


uBlock is working on creating neutered version of ad/tracking scripts so that the js think that they are loaded fine and are working but they don't do anything. They are called surrogate script and noscript already uses them.


Pasting YouTube URLs into VLC still works.

As does youtube-dl.[0]


Same for mpv!

Doesn't work here.

And there I was, blaming my browser for those "an error occurred" messages..

If anyone is interested, I'm working on a free online YouTube client website that doesn't show ads, has a separate login system that allows you to subscribe to users, without YouTube knowing anything about that. I need help with building the website, so anyone doing design / PHP is welcome to contact me.

edit: Forgot to add, the website uses no JavaScript and doesn't track you at all. It also tries to implement most of YouTube's functionality, so you don't loose anything by using the website instead of YouTube.

If you're building such a website, Google will shut it down quickly. It probably breaks some laws too (i'm not a lawyer).

It doesn't break any laws since I don't play any videos which have forbidden embedding. Plus, technology like that has been mainstream in VLC, youtube-dl, etc, for ages. It uses the official YouTube API, and respects mosts of the Terms of Service, except the video fetching, which doesn't use the API at all, just loads the page on the server and catches the video stream.

@imaginenore: They're not, but if the video is licensed for embedding that means that I can't be sued for copyright infringement, plus the standard "linking != infringement" applies.

You are breaking several of YouTube's TOS (https://www.youtube.com/static?template=terms)

> (5A) you agree not to distribute any part of or parts of the Website or the Service, including but not limited to any Content

By downloading and sending the videos from your servers, you are distributing their content.

> (5C) you agree not to access Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Website itself, the YouTube Player, or such other means as YouTube may explicitly designate for this purpose

Downloading a video via CLI is not using the YouTube player.

> (5D) you agree not to (or attempt to) circumvent, disable or otherwise interfere with any security related features of the Service or features that (i) prevent or restrict use or copying of Content or (ii) enforce limitations on use of the Service or the content accessible via the Service

By removing ads you are interfering with the restriction that users must watch ads.

> (5L) [...] not intended to be downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), copied, stored, or redistributed by the user.

Should be obvious.

> (5M) You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content

You are copying and distributing the content.

Tbh, Im not distributing anything, they are, I just hotlink the video file. Also, anyone using an adblocker is also doing the same thing, yet youtube isnt blocking adblockers.

Embedding and scraping into a video tag aren't the same thing.

As soon as you store any of their content on your server, even if in just RAM, you're fucked, because that's copyright infringement.

> you're fucked, because that's copyright infringement.

Tell this to the hundreds of online youtube downloaders which are downloading youtube videos to their servers and then making it available for the user to download it from them: https://www.google.hu/search?q=online+youtube+downloader

Do you always give people legal advice based on your wild fantasies about how law works?

Please don't be uncivil on Hacker News, whether someone else is wrong or not.

Correct me, if you think I'm wrong.

How are you going to play YouTube videos without ads?

The server fetches the video page from YouTube, and embeds the VP8+Opus video URL into my site's page with a <video> tag.

Ha. So you're stealing content and then offering it up for free (and presumably you're on the hook for bandwidth bills)?

Exactly what's the goal of your ill-fated plan? You're going to get blocked/banned and when you continue to circumvent it, you're going to get a C&D. This is an absolutely terrible idea.

My goal is to use YouTube on an Intel atom single core netbook without waiting minutes for the video to load in their stupid DASH player.

Your server will probably get blacklisted for heavy usage or some arbitrary API violation. Do you have a plan to remedy or circumvent it?

Does he really need to lay out a plan for that? Getting a new IP is absolutely trivial these days, and if you need to move around between subnets, that's easy too.

Will that work? For some reason, I guessed the YouTube video URL was a function of the first two or three bytes of your IPv4 address, to prevent exactly this case. I did something like that back when I designed a CAPTCHA system for LimeWire.

(The LimeWire website only ran PHP (soft requirement), the credit card processing box only ran Perl (hard requirement), no shared network drive between website and credit card box (hard requirement), so none of the existing Open Source CAPTCHA implementations worked. So, I made the CAPTCHA answer a cryptographic function of a shared secret, the user's /24 network, and a user-supplied timestamp rounded to a 32 or 64-second boundary. Timestamps older than 15 minutes were rejected, and messing with the timestamp would mean that the captcha answer wouldn't match the image you were given. I watched an attacker solve a CAPTCHA for an IP in Virginia and a couple seconds later try replaying it thousands of times from an IP in England. A few IP addresses for US navy satellite ground stations in Virginia (NAT for tons of deployed sailors) had to be white-listed from the replay checker.)

@amadeusw: I'm just planning to rebuild the VPS any time it gets blocked, if it gets blocked. Given that YouTube downloader websites have worked for so long without going down, I don't think that would be an issue.

Presumably if you subscribe to YouTube Red -- which removes all ads on YouTube -- then you won't get delays. So, what's the problem?

YouTube Red is not available in all the countries

Fair enough (for people in those countries)

jfyi: It's only available in the US. So about noone can use it.

Ad blocker for now is free.

Disclaimer: I have Youtube Red

Yes but presumably no one sane thinks Google is morally obliged to serve us videos for free?

No Google should adapt and move on, ad blockers are here to stay forever, says some people.

What adaption to you suggest other than giving people the opportunity to pay directly, as YouTube Red does?

I dont login into YouTube since google started forcing G+ accounts on the users!

Good for you, but you are missing out on a lot of interesting material, including online courses and presentations.

Not sure if I'm misunderstanding, but he said he _doesn't log in_, not that he doesn't actually visit youtube.

Well in that case, just view the videos in an anonymous window, and login when you want to place a comment. Also minimizes tracking.

I've never felt the need to comment on a video on Youtube. The 4chan phrase "pissing into an ocean of piss" springs to mind.

Exactly. I always liked to "Like" a video so I could revisit in future but now I simply bookmark it in the browser.

I meant I do not sign-in into youtube as you have suggested I do visit in incognito windows or with adblockers.

I'm not getting flagged (obviously) using my pi-hole.net device.

Use ublock, people. Adblock sells out.


Does Adblock Plus block the on video ads?

uBlock can also do this. I suppose if the ads cannot be retrieved, the video is supposed to handle it smoothly.

The only ads that cannot be blocked are those that streams over the same origin server, like Twitch's new embedded ads.

> I suppose if the ads cannot be retrieved, the video is supposed to handle it smoothly.

And if this supposition is violated, one would expect an error. I wouldn't personally have assumed that would work; it's probably the case that YouTube changed something that happens to also play ill with AdBlock (since AdBlock is basically futzing around with the content the page expects to be able to load, that should be expected).



Let the games begin! The endless arms race for ad blocking and ad blocking detection has officially started.

We are already engaged in so many of these that I fear opening a new front will cause integer overflow. Perhaps it would be better for publishers and consumers to find a way to transact in cash rather than eyeball time.

Do no evil, right?


People seem to have this romanticized view of Google but this is a company that makes almost the entirety of its revenue from tracking users. Between Google, Chrome, Android, Gmail and Google Maps they have an astonishing amount of access to people's lives and most people seem none the wise to it. And yet, if another company does anything even remotely close (Microsoft with Windows 10, for example), they would be crucified. Google seems to escape the same level of criticism for some reason.

They are business at the end of the day. How much are you paying monthly for the youtube/search/gmail, whatever else you are using from google?

Probably, $0.00. Then how are they going to keep those services up without any ads?

Also, form my understanding the Youtube Red service has no ads. If ads bother you so much, you can sing up for it, for 9.99/mo.

Two things that come to mind.

1) it's impossible to compete with ad-supported "free" services in a large-scale way. Any competitor to YouTube that tried to pay their bills only with paying customers can't succeed. This makes me think that we need some kind of anti-trust like law if it doesn't already exist to cover situations like this.

2) No YouTube red in most countries. I have been hit by this "delay" because I use an adblocker, but when I try to give YouTube my $9.99US a month I'm refused.

Of course, I have no implicit right to use YouTube in the way of my choosing but I would like to see them act in good faith towards me when I try to with them.

If you pay nothing, you are not the customer. You are the product.

How is blocking free/ad-blocked access to their ad supported content evil in any definition of the word? What entitles you to access their site if they don't want you to?

Not letting tech-savvy-me having good thing for free is the new evil~

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