Publishers and internet users will have given a half-hearted cheer to last week’s news that Google is to build a form of advertising control technology into Chrome from 2018.
Cheering, perhaps, but each group will have been doing so for different reasons and with little enthusiasm.
Notice we said control – not blocking. But before untangling the difference, let’s acknowledge why ad-blocking has become so appealing: visiting many websites often means being swarmed by ad and tracking systems that noticeably slow browsing performance.
Publishers claim this is a fringe problem caused by aggressive companies getting carried away, but that’s not entirely true. There are plenty of mainstream sites that happily leave users in the slow lane.
Google’s top ad executive, Sridhar Ramaswamy, describes the outcome:
These frustrating experiences can lead some people to block all ads – taking a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.
So, people start using ad blockers which block out almost everything, encouraging publishers to deploy anti-blocking technology which simply annoys readers even more.
Without giving a history lesson, suffice it to say that the model’s futility occurred to ad-blocking companies, which also needed revenue. Their solution was to let some advertisers pay not to be blocked.
This went down badly with many publishers, who felt they were being extorted, an argument that continues to this day. Savvy users responded by disabling whitelisting anyway.
Google’s alternative is slightly different and has two elements. The first is to allow Chrome to control ads that don’t adhere to rules agreed by the industry Coalition for Better Ads.
Arguably, this isn’t blocking because it only stops ads that transgress in very specific ways, such as auto-playing videos, prestitial ads with countdown timers (which block a homepage for a given period) and sticky ads (which persist even after scrolling).
It won’t address the wider issue of the way ads drain performance or – the other reason ad-blockers became popular – stop users from being tracked across websites to the detriment of their privacy and, sometimes, their security.
Given this, the second element Google, Funding Choices, might be particularly galling. Still in limited beta, this is a way to charge users who refuse to turn off their ad-blocker. The revenue from this, stored in a Google digital wallet, will be split between the publisher and – you guessed it – Google.
Doubtless, a few publishers will see this as a handy revenue stream, assuming enough bother to enable it. It might raise pennies.
For most, however, it will stick in the craw for publishers to pay Google at all, the very company many privately blame for using its search engine algorithms, advertising system and dominance of mobiles to slowly drain their brands of importance – and revenue.
To date, only one other mainstream browser maker, Opera, has dabbled with integrated ad blocking. Google’s plans are more potent even if its ad control tech ends up as a halfway house that merely enforces sanity on publishers.
What it can’t yet do is stop people using ad-blockers without driving them away from Chrome itself. For now, ad-blockers remain the last stand of browser users who refuse to cede all control.
12 comments on “Two cheers for Google’s native Chrome ad-blocker”
uBlock Origin ! Best ad blocker there is. For Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. Can’t wait to see it on Android.
It’s available for Firefox for Android.
I feel for the content providers who depend on ads. But, this is a huge problem. I don’t use an ad-blocker, and I feel the pain VERY commonly.
My question is, why isn’t there an ad-certification set of standards? This would seem almost trivial to produce, and it would pay for itself both for advertisers and for ad-blockers.
Obviously, it would have to be independent of content providers and advertising agencies. Ad-blockers could be certified to block only ads beyond the ad certs’ specification.
Today, the only “standards” are proprietary to the ad-blockers. Someone should step up to the plate on this. C’mon, Google, Facebook, and other giants! Form a consortium to take input from all fronts, and create something. You will ALL win if you do!
AdBlock Plus, the Brave browser and Facebook are all trying to walk the line between blocking onerous ads and letting acceptable ones through.
“Acceptable Ads”: Are there any? And who gets to monetize them?
Brave will pay you to see ads with its ad-blocking browser
Facebook starts bypassing adblockers
I think the trouble is that the horse has already bolted. The standards for acceptable ads needed to arrive first, before the ad-blockers. Instead the advertisers and content providers got stuck in a race to the bottom which drove consumers into the arms of ad-blockers. Standards or no I can’t see millions of consumers uninstalling their ad-blockers now, on the off-chance that ads have changed for the better.
I agree. But, I also think that it could still be done. This proposed consortium wouldn’t recommend algorithms or code. The restrictions, in fact, should be in very plain language.
For example, “hidden spyware on ad pages” might be one thing prohibited (there’s a can of worms for you).
And, they would need to have a support process controlling adjudication between parties. Advertisers especially would need a way to argue that their ad didn’t exceed the specs. Also, they may agree, and then change things so the ad is again compliant with their cert. level.
The ad-blockers and the advertisers should both get a lot of input into the rules (along with the public). And, the rules need to be numbered, perhaps from least offensive (1) to most offensive (10), with everything higher than a certain number applying to one of 10 certifications.
I’ve been using an ad-blocker for so long that it’s a shock to see the internet without one. Whatever Google does (and I try to avoid Chrome because of it’s Google tendrils) I can’t see that I would want to be without one now.
On a mobile device where an ad-blocker it a bit harder to use some sites (particularly Facebook links) are now unusable for the most part. Adverts taking up 90% of he screen and popping on top of content as well.
Advertiser have made this monster through their own greed.
The music industry had to adapt or die, ad companies need to take heed and change their business model. They failed to regulate themselves effectively, most advertisers abuse ads (think malware techniques without obvious payload), and then you have the real threat of malware delivered via ads to innocent people who become infected just because an unwanted ad appears on a page they are reading.
As an end user it’s my computer, i bought it, it’s my paid for internet bandwidth, I run AV software to keep known viruses out and i run an Ad blocker for the same reason. I will block you any way i can. if a site dies due to lack of ad revenue they should have changed tact long ago because it was obviously coming.
If Google thinks anyone will pay a penny for Chrome without ads they’re going to lose a lot of users to alternate browsers.
Quite simply, any site that makes me really work to disable ads or tracking I won’t visit. To date, I’ve not missed a single thing. The exception is browsing (off the clock, or for work reasons) on work pcs, as I obviously have no option sometimes – I mitigate this by not caring so much at work, but then we also have such frequent forced password changes that I’m down to using things like “P@ssW0rd” by now. I also have access to a wide range of business critical data, and am aware of the insanity of using such a bad password, but am blocked from using a password manager and have an awful memory.
The astute amongst you will be aware of where I work and how bad that seems – before you panic, I’m not in the web services side of the company, and don’t have any network admin rights, although some of those who do have been with the company longer and have more memory issues than I…
Oh, the irony…the displays on Piccadilly Circus are off at the moment for maintenance etc…
Ha, shows how often I go into the West End at night! 😉
I block ads because they have become a common attack method for malware. Until advertising networks begin making an effort to ensure ads are safe I will do as much as I can to block all of them. (edited to remove link – please don’t post links in the comments.)
I kind of think the ship has sailed, at least for desktop environments. People have used ad-blockers for years now, and even somewhat-regulated ads are unbearable when you come from no ads at all. What this might be good for is the mobile sector. They should get on that and make mobile ads user-friendly, non intrusive and regulated. Before someone comes along and finds an easy way to block all ads on mobile devices as well.