That’s when Chrome takes a significant step in the direction that hundreds of millions of us already have gone by installing ad blockers. Chrome stops far short of those browser extensions, which typically ban all ads, but the move carries plenty of importance because Google’s browser dominates the web on both personal computers and phones. Chrome is used to view about 56 percent of web pages, according to analytics firm StatCounter.
Chrome’s ad-blocking move is designed to rid the web of sites stuffed to the gills with ads or degraded by obnoxious ads, said Ryan Schoen, Google’s product manager for web platform work at Chrome. There are signs it’s already had an effect: About 42 percent of sites that the company’s warned have dialed back on ads to pass Google’s standards, including the LA Times, Forbes and the Chicago Tribune.
“We want the web to be a place where businesses can thrive and make revenue, but also a place where users can have a good experience,” Schoen said. “We’re hoping this will bring balance back in the web ecosystem.”
Online ads have fueled the growth of the web by funding sites like Google and Facebook without forcing us to pay for subscriptions. That helps services quickly grow to massive scale — more than 2 billion in Facebook’s case. But as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and now there’s a backlash against ads as we discover the actual cost of free websites.
Ads have abundant downsides. They slow down websites and gobble our phone batteries’ power. They can track our online behavior in an attempt to build a profile useful for matching ads to our interests. They can be distracting. They can even serve as a conduit for computer attacks or turn our machines into unwitting tools that let others make money off cryptocurrency.
What Chrome ad blocking does
Google’s move doesn’t address most of these points, at least for now — this is only a first step. It’s just designed to dissuade publishers from obnoxious ad practices defined by a consortium called Coalition for Better Ads. In Chrome, you’ll no longer see ads that:
Cover more than 30 percent of your phone screen
Cover your screen and show a countdown timer
Autoplay video with sound
Use “sticky” panels that won’t go away
Pop up to cover part of the screen
What you’ll see instead is a message from Chrome explaining what’s happening and allowing you to disable the ad blocking.
Google analyzes sites and warns those with overly intrusive ads of the consequences in Chrome, Schoen said. If they don’t update, they’re added to a blacklist. Chrome will block all ads on those sites until website publisher complies with the standards.
The goal isn’t to eliminate ads.
“If we just got rid of ads on every single page load, would performance be better? Yes. Unfortunately, the content you were consuming would no longer be funded, and the content would dry up,” Schoen said.
Not far enough?
But some in the browser world are taking a stronger stance against ad technology. One is Eeyo’s Adblock Plus, a major ad blocker funded by companies, including Google, that pay it to let some ads through if users opt in. The standards Google is using only “skim off” the ads “that may induce massive eye-gougings upon viewing,” AdBlock Plus operations chief Ben Williams said in a blog post.
Brave Software, led by Mozilla and Firefox co-founder Brendan Eich, offers a browser that by default blocks all ads and ad tracking software, too — though in