Even free services come with a cost. On the web, where things often are free because advertisers are willing to pay to target specific users based on their data, the cost to the user is privacy. But there is a financial cost, too, as researchers at Canada’s Simon Fraser University discovered.
According to a study (pdf) conducted at the school, computers loaded with Adblock Plus downloaded on average 25% less data than those without. Looking at video traffic alone, computers with Adblock Plus loaded as much as 40% less traffic.
Researchers set up several computers and assigned student volunteers to casually browse a list of websites for between five and 15 minutes. At the end of the testing period, researchers looked at their comparative data use and found that the computers with ad blockers installed used substantially less data—9.6 GB without to 7.2 GB with, on average.
“These findings have important consequences for not only universities, but also for any enterprise user with large data demands,” the authors write. “The decrease in network data usage has the potential to generate substantial savings across several fronts.”
The potential savings, especially for large data consumers like universities and businesses, include lower bandwidth costs, lower maintenence and infrastructure costs, and, potentially, lower energy demands, though the researchers did not look into that aspect. “With global video IP traffic projected to increase to 79% of all web traffic by 2018… these savings could be significant indeed,” the researchers write.