Taking Back Control Over Third Party Content

We have a complex love-hate relationship with the third party content on our sites, and it has taken a turn for the worse. On the one hand, third party content often pays the bills. On the other hand, recent developments have increased its “cost”. HTTP/2 means third party content is even more of a performance burden than before, the weight of that content is taking up a larger and larger percentage of our site’s overall bytesize, ad-blockers mean users have had enough, and projects like Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles mean that embedders feel the same.

Our lack of control over what 3rd parties are doing on our sites is showing. How can we gain it back?

In this talk, we will discuss mitigation techniques to reduce the performance and security impact third parties have on our site as well as monitoring what these scripts are doing.

We will also talk about a long term plan to restore sanity to the ecosystem. We need mechanisms that will enable us to put the developers back in the driver’s seat and at the same time enable smarter ad blockers, so that responsible 3rd parties can remain a source of income. I’ll propose such mechanisms.

Developers improve performance by optimizing the critical rendering path, compressing images and making them responsive, anything they can.

Business requirements introduce code for third party content, and performance improvements disappear.

Analysing one site showed that 1Mb downloaded was actual content, but required downloading another 11Mb, 7Mb of which was JavaScript.

Other research has shown that 50% of the data downloaded on mobile is ad content.

Ad blockers have risen in use and extended to mobile browsers to control the ad madness.

Some content providers have introduced their own formats to force content to be reduced to a minimum for a distraction-free user experience.

Advertisers have responded in one way by making ads lightweight, served over https, supporting user choice and non-invasive.

Publishers are trying to influence users on how to manage rather than block ads.