Ads pay for the vast majority of free content found on the web. That’s pretty much how the modern web evolved. But some ads are really annoying, potentially blocking the content you’re trying to read and probably making you less likely to have warm, fuzzy feelings about the products being advertised.
For that reason, and many others, a growing number of people are using ad blockers to hide the ads found on websites. Plugins like uBlock and AdBlock Plus can do that for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. The Opera browser even has a built-in ad blocker. And soon, so will Google Chrome.
Let’s be clear: not only do websites like this one make most of their money from advertising. So do many big internet giants like Facebook and… Google. So why would Google include an ad blocker in its own web browser?
Because it doesn’t block all ads. Instead, it’s designed to only block those ads that don’t meet the Better Ads Standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads.
Basically, that means ads that pop-up over other content on a website, automatically play audio without any user interaction, cover the page until a countdown timer ends, or cover a large part of the screen in a “sticky” format that can’t easily be removed.
Starting in “early 2018,” Chrome will stop showing ads on websites that don’t meet the Better Ads Standards. Note that Google isn’t just saying Chrome will stop showing non-compliant ads. It will stop showing all ads on websites that don’t comply.
So let’s get back to the original question: why would a company that makes its money from advertising start filtering out ads? There are a few good explanations:
- Annoying ads drive people to install ad blockers which indiscriminately hide all ads. By including a selective ad blocker in Chrome, Google might encourage people not to take a more extreme approach.
- Threatening to block all ads for users of the world’s most popular web browser is a pretty good way to ensure that web publishers start to comply with the standards… giving readers less reason to turn to ad blockers.
- Google’s own advertising networks already discourage the use of these sorts of annoying ads, so it’s not like Google’s really shooting itself in the foot too much here.
Of course, part of the reason websites use those flashier, more annoying ads is because simpler ads might not generate as much revenue. If Google succeeds in discouraging websites from using those ads though, it’s possible more ad money will flow to less obtrusive ads in the future.
But Google also has another option: the company is revamping its Google Contributor tool that lets website visitors pay a fee to hide Google ads from the websites they visit. In the future, Chrome users who have an ad blocker installed may see a new Funding Choices notice when visiting some websites, asking them to either enable ads or pay for a pass to remove ads on that site.
Meanwhile, Google may be missing a key point: some people install third-party ad blockers because they find ads annoying or irrelevant. But over the past few years I’ve heard a lot of people complain that ads are also problematic for other reasons. Some folks worry about privacy matters that come from ads that track your data. Others worry about security issues associated with ads that can deliver code to your computer (and there have been instances where malware is distributed through ads). And there’s also the fact that ads consume internet bandwidth and computer resources.
So I suspect that even if Google’s new plan to start blocking ads does slow the adoption of third-party ad blockers… there will still be a large number of people who opt for the more powerful solution.
Note: In case it wasn’t abundantly clear already, Liliputing is ad-supported. We do our best to ensure that our ads aren’t obtrusive, and glancing at the Better Ads Standards, it looks like we already comply, although I’ll be keeping an eye on Google’s new ad Experience Report tool to see if Google catches any problems.
But if you’re already using an ad blocker and want to help support the site, please consider making a contribution to our Patreon campaign.