Google will soon announce a built-in ad blocking tool for its Chrome web browser, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. At first, that seems a bit odd. Digital advertising is Google’s bread and butter, and reports say that Google Chrome is still by far the world’s most-used browser. So why would Google want to handicap itself?
Well, in the long run, it may not be. The report says Google’s tool wouldn’t kill every ad, but would instead filter out “unacceptable” ads as defined by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group of which Google (and Facebook, the other digital ad giant) are members. The Coalition currently names auto-playing videos with sound, large ads that stick to your web page even as you scroll, prestitial ads with countdowns (i.e., those ads that make you wait a few seconds before letting you see the page), and pop-ups as examples.
So, in a sense, this may be Google’s attempt at getting other publishers and advertisers to do better, which would lessen the need for an ad blocker, which would mean more money in Google’s pocket. How harshly Google will treat “offending” websites is still up in the air, but as this chart from Statista shows, it’s dealing with a not-insignificant amount of ad-blocking users around the world. According to a recent PageFair report, those figures are only growing.
The hangup is that none of this is likely to include Google’s own ads. And regardless of how bad some ads may be, Google could still end up leveraging its own dominant platform (Chrome) to not only shut out competing ad-blockers, but strong-arm other advertisers into following its orders. If the report comes to fruition, Google is likely to face careful scrutiny from regulators.
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