Advertising on the internet has become a multibillion-dollar industry. According to eMarketer, internet advertising revenue in 2017 in the United States alone was $83 billion, a 14 percent increase from the $72.5 billion revenues of 2016. Unfortunately, the industry’s growth has led to a proliferation of intrusive ads on all platforms, whether desktop or mobile, that often result in a terrible browsing experience for web users. Now, Google one of the world’s leading internet companies is introducing a new feature that will block these annoying ads outright on its Chrome browser.
Google is part of an industry group called the Coalition for Better Ads, that aims to find a way to integrate online advertising with a seamless uninterrupted browsing experience. To this effect, the Coalition has defined certain standards for what qualified as “intrusive ads”. The list includes four types of desktop ads – pop-up ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdown, and large sticky ads – and eight types of mobile ads – pop-up ads, prestitial ads, ads that take up more than 30 percent of the vertical height of main content portion of the page, flashing animated ads, auto-playing video ads with sound, postitial ads with countdowns, full-screen scroll over ads, and large sticky ads.
These twelve ad types will be blocked by default for users of the new version 64 of Google’s Chrome browser. A 2018 StatCounter report estimates that Chrome has a 66 percent market share of web browsers on desktops worldwide, and a 56 percent share overall, including over 50 percent market share on smartphones. This means that Google’s updates will effectively block ad visibility to a large chunk of the world’s internet browsing population.
Google says that it will evaluate websites to check for violations of the above standards. If a site is found to have one or more violations, it will be informed of the same by Google, who will make a report about it available to the offenders by an API. The company’s browser will then start blocking the ads by default after 30 days of notifying the website. An important point to note over here is that if a website is in violation of the Coalition’s standards, all ads on the platform will be blocked and not just the offending ones. Chrome users will also be notified of blocked ads similar to pop-up block notifications on the desktop, and through a small bar notification on mobile browsers – users will be given the option to opt-in for ads if they so desire.
While the move is likely to be welcomed enthusiastically by users, it will probably spell sleepless nights for publishers who rely heavily on ad revenue. The move follows a recent general trend by the tech industry to focus more on user-generated content and individual experiences, at the expense of publishers and larger companies. For example, Facebook also recently tweaked its news feed algorithms to give higher visibility to posts from friends, family, and other connections versus public content from organisation pages and the like.
Chrome Vice President Rahul Roy-Chowdhury wrote in a blog post last week, “By focusing on filtering out disruptive ad experiences, we can help keep the entire ecosystem of the web healthy, and give people a significantly better user experience than they have today.” Whether this will translate into joy or despair for publishers remains to be seen.