Google: Ads Don’t Ruin the Web, Site Owners Do (Premium)

Google will turn on the so-called "ad-blocker" in its Chrome web browser tomorrow. But don't get too excited. As I pointed out earlier, this isn't a real ad blocker. And if you want to block ads in Chrome, you'll still need a third-party extension.

"While most advertising on the web is respectful of user experience, over the years we've increasingly heard from our users that some advertising can be particularly intrusive," Google's Chris Bentzel writes. "Chrome will tackle this issue by removing ads from sites that do not follow the Better Ads Standards."

And that's the issue.

Google is not integrating ad-blocking into Chrome. Instead, it is working with the advertising industry to bolster its only real source of revenues.

As I noted in April 2017 when this functionality was only a rumor, the proposed 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.)"

In June last year, after Google formally announced its plans, I also pointed out the obvious conflict of interest here: "Google is working hand-and-hand with the advertising industry, it’s biggest customer base. and Chrome will never really help you block ads. Instead, Google will help advertisers make more efficient and less annoying ads that consumers won’t feel compelled to block. This isn’t as altruistic as many would like to believe. And you will absolutely still want to use an ad-blocker with Chrome if you do so today."

With Chrome poised to start "blocking" ads tomorrow, Google this week is explaining how this technology works. And, more important, how ads really aren't the problem. This is a stunningly brazen statement when you think about it.

"Although a few of the ad experiences that violate the Better Ads Standards are problems in the advertisement itself, the majority of problematic ad experiences are controlled by the site owner — such as high ad density or prestitial ads with a countdown."


This is the same argument as "guns don't kill people, people kill people." The ads themselves are benign, Google is saying, and could even do some good in the right environment. It's just how they're used. By people. Bad people.

Look, I'm excited that Chrome---which is the browser that most people, including me, use and prefer---will block the most intrusive ads. That's neat. But this is not Google doing the world a solid. Nor is it an opportunity to drop an extension from your toolbox.



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