Unless you work in the advertising industry, chances are you hate online ads that slow down, interrupt, or just plain ruin your browsing experience. That’s why the use of ad-blocking technology has soared in recent years. But would Google, which makes a mountain of money off web ads, actually build an ad-blocker directly into its Chrome browser?
Sources in the know tell the Wall Street Journal that upcoming mobile and desktop versions of Chrome will come with a built-in ad-blocker that’s enabled by default.
The blocker would not be set to filter out all ads, but rather just those that are considered “bad” under standards recently released by an advertiser trade group.
That list of ad types considered “beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability” does indeed include a lot of the things users hate most, like pop-ups, auto-playing video (with sound on), and those “prestitial” pages you have to stare at for 15 seconds before being able to continue to the page you wanted.
The WSJ reports that one possibility is that Chrome could block all advertising that appears on a site using some or all of the offending techniques, instead of just blocking a handful of ads. Site owners would then pretty much be strong-armed into making their whole experience better and only running “acceptable” ads, or else have all their ads blocked to all Chrome users.
The WSJ describes the plan as a defense move. About a quarter of all U.S. web users now use some kind of ad-blocking tool on their (desktop and laptop) computers, it estimates. Those, of course, may block any ad indiscriminately, because that’s what the user asks for.
So if Chrome comes with a built-in function that reduces the amount of annoyance the average user runs into, the thought goes, folks who use it will not feel compelled to go download a third-party ad-blocker, and all the “good” ads can still get through to real human eyes.
The report does raise some concerns for other advertisers and ad-blockers, though. Google, of course, is not just the maker of the world’s current most-popular web browser, the world’s current most-popular phone OS, and the world’s most-popular current search engine; it’s also the country’s biggest digital advertising company.
That creates the potential for a massive, anticompetitive conflict of interest: If you enable ad-blocking in Chrome, and the ad-blocker only disables “annoying” ads, what’s to stop Google from defining all non-Google ads as unsafe irritants — and knocking out the competition, such as it is — while always letting their own through?
Google Plans Ad-Blocking Feature in Popular Chrome Browser [Wall Street Journal]