Report: Google Chrome to Block “Bad” Ads

Posted on April 20, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud with 30 Comments

A credible report in The Wall Street Journal claims that Google will add native ad-blocking capabilities to its flagship Chrome web browser in 2017. But this isn’t as exciting as it sounds.

“Google is planning to introduce an ad-blocking feature in the mobile and desktop versions of its popular Chrome web browser, according to people familiar with the company’s plans,” the report notes. “The ad-blocking feature could be switched on by default within Chrome [and] would filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web.”

That bit about “certain online ad types” is the rub: Google’s integrated ad-blocker won’t block all advertising. It will only block “unacceptable ad types” as defined by the Coalition for Better Ads. That is, it will remove the most annoying ads, which include pop-up ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, prestitial countdown ads, and large sticky ads on PCs. (And different types of ads on mobile.)

To be fair, this is still good news, as browsing the web has become a nightmare of dodging these ads. And in my experience at least, extensions that prevent this behavior often have other unintended negative effects on the browsing experience.

But this kind of functionality won’t solve what I think is Chrome’s central usability issue. And because Google, which makes Chrome, makes over 90 percent of its revenues on ads, it’s likely that the firm will never fix this problem. Which is this: Unlike every other browser, Chrome doesn’t provide an elegant and native reading experience. So you need to rely on third-party utilities, like Mercury Reader to provide a clean view of the article you’re trying to read. Or Pocket, for “save it later”-type functionality.

The thing is, neither of these solutions is particularly elegant because they are add-on extensions. I find that the icon for Mercury Reader gets lost in the Chrome toolbar, and while I really do like Pocket (and use it regularly), it’s an extra step. I often find myself saving an article to Pocket, and then switching to Pocket, so I can read it immediately. Put simply, the reading experience on Chrome is pretty much broken.

Granted, Chrome’s many other benefits put it over the top, which is why I put up with this stuff. Compared to, say, Microsoft Edge, which is itself a nightmare of missing features and performance issues, Chrome is wonderful to use overall.

Anyway, while Google’s move here can be seen cynically—by blocking bad ads, it is protecting its only real revenue source by allowing “good” ads through—it’s still good news for users. But you’ll want to continue using whatever ad blocker—and reading view and “save it later”—extension(s) you are already using too.

 

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Comments (30)

30 responses to “Report: Google Chrome to Block “Bad” Ads”

  1. tbtalbot

    Interesting. It's not that I care too much about blocking all ads. Its those that annoy me: autoplaying videos, flashing or animated content, obtrusive, or those that consume computing power. Even with ad blockers, lots of sites have the autoplaying content videos (+/- ads) which I really hate.

    • wright_is

      In reply to tbtalbot:

      Exactly, I have nothing against ads, as such. Sites have to find some way to finance themselves and most people won't pay for access to sites, or they can't afford to pay for access to a lot of sites. I do pay for this site, because I come here regularly, but I couldn't afford to do that on every site I visit.


      So I appreciate that the ads should be displayed, so the site can earn enough money to stay online. But if the ads are intrusive, then I will block them... If this move forces companies to remove obtrusive ads from their sites, then it is a win for everyone.


      Now, if only the big ad brokers, like Google, could stop malware and trick ads showing up.

      • YouWereWarned

        In reply to wright_is:

        Google could block malware and trick ads delivered through their CDNs. They've made a financial decision to ignore them until such point that lawsuits or user outrage coupled with social media get their attention. For example, let's send every new ad to Sergey and Larry's secretaries, where they have to click on them. The fixes would be formulating by lunchtime.

        The brainiacs in that organization, who we apparently are going to trust on the road driving our cars, could easily concoct artificial intelligence to detect compromising ads. But they won't without a good reason.

  2. per.steinar

    Funny if Google has no problem enable this by default, but get mad when MS enabled "Do not track"

  3. Waethorn

    People here aren't reading into this entirely when they figure this is some scam by Google to block competitors ads. This is point that should be highlighted:


    "Google’s integrated ad-blocker won’t block all advertising. It will only block “unacceptable ad types” as ** defined by the Coalition for Better Ads. ** " (emphasis on the hyperlink)


    Google is a member among many international advertising bureaus and organizations:

    https://www.betterads.org/members/


    They are one of 26 members, and many, many more affiliates. They don't control the entire Coalition's governance.


    Sorry, but there is no conspiracy.

  4. lordbaal1

    “The ad-blocking feature could be switched on by default within Chrome [and] would filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web.”


    The correct thing to say is,

    “The ad-blocking feature could be switched on by default within Chrome [and] would filter out all ads besides adsense for users as they move around the web.”

  5. Narg

    Personally, I do think this is exciting. I believe it will help curb malicious ads, at least a little bit and that is a VERY good thing.

  6. Writerlad

    Paul, have you tried using the "Brave" browser past the early beta you mentioned awhile back? It's designed to be a Chromium-based browser built around privacy and ad-blocking by default.

  7. Waethorn

    Question: do advertisers even pay just to host ads anymore? Or do people have to actually click on them for the site owner to get paid?


    Does anybody click on ads anymore? Other than those #fakenews tabloid sponsored posts on Facebook I mean. Facebook is probably the worst propagator of #fakenews by way of their ad posts.

  8. JacobTheDev

    Chrome actually does support a "reading mode" — at least in the mobile version. Maybe they'll eventually bring it to desktop too. https://fieldguide.gizmodo.com/how-to-make-chrome-the-best-browser-for-your-phone-1788124084

  9. Waethorn

    Semi-related: 7 people yesterday contacted me about getting hit with malvertising that led to fake tech support pages via ads on Bing search pages and MSN. Common search terms on Bing search were "<bank> login" or "facebook".

    • Narg

      In reply to Waethorn:

      I believe this will help curb them a bit. Some of them contain flash that can "drive-by-download" malicious content. Plus, the ads that are good usually go through checks and can be removed if found bad. At least in the terms that Ad Block Plus has, and they are supposed to be part of a larger effort on this. Hopefully Google is supporting this same effort.

      • Waethorn

        In reply to Narg:

        No, it has absolutely nothing to do with that. It's people paying Microsoft for ad-space on Bing to post fake websites, and it remains unchecked. They use Javascript exclusively now. The scammers know that Flash is being deprecated.


        ABP is just the ad mafia: "pay us to be whitelisted". It's a conflict of interest.


        If a website wants to get my approval for ads, run static ads on the page. Static ads don't track users.

  10. Breaker119

    This will, of course, force advertisers to use Google for ads instead. You know...do no evil - just force ads to your own platform


    The only reason that I ever use Chrome is for Thurrott.com because the comments don't work in Internet Explorer (which I'd venture to say is still the dominant browser in the workplace)

  11. BBoileau

    I do find that the best way is still with the paid site option, like what you have here at Thurott.com. It pays the appropriate party and simplifies browsing. This model needs to be embraced by anyone operating a site.

  12. wunderbar

    I love the idea of this. I absolutely do not want to block ads, because the vast majority of the great content we all like to consume on the internet is paid for by ads. People who block all ads and the complain when this free thing they read takes a stance against blocking ads amuse me.


    That being said, there are a lot of ads that are terrible. Pop-up ads have no place, and videos should *never* autoplay.

  13. sharpsone

    All ads are bad so....

  14. dave0

    I feel like this should make me happy, but I'm not a fan of Google using their power to shape the internet. I would prefer they stick to search.

    I wish I had a better alternative to Chrome. Firefox just doesn't do it for me.

  15. karlinhigh

    Now if they could just do something about malvertising yet... dunno, maybe follow the link and keyword-search?

  16. ben55124

    This is most important for android where you can't install Chrome extensions (that I'm aware of). I use Firefox on android + uBlock. Works well.

  17. rameshthanikodi

    If this doesn't trigger an anti-trust investigation somewhere down the road, I don't know what will.

  18. ozaz

    I like this.

    I don't want to block all ads as I don't think its fair.

    I want to block the worst ads and turn on ad-blocking for sites that host these ads. i.e. start off from a default position that a site is good and then block the ads if they annoy me. This is the opposite position to current ad-blockers which assume that every site is bad and rely on you to whitelist sites you don't want to block.


  19. TtgadgeT CoM

    I think google will damage it self, i always use Google Chrome Ad Blocking Extensions to block ads on y chrome web browser but if this report is real i think google adsense will disappear.

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