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.