Google could well be set to add an ad blocker as a default function of all versions of its Chrome browser, according to a new report. While this might seem like a worthwhile addition for a browser to stay competitive with its contemporaries, it has taken many people by surprise. As the world’s biggest internet advertising company, Google could stand to lose untold millions if such a move took place.
Ad blockers have always proved a controversial topic. While they help users enjoy various parts of the internet without interruption from advertisements, those very ads support the free access to many of those same sites and services. That hasn’t stopped an arms race developing between ad creators and blocker developers, but a decision by Google to get behind one itself is a move that no one would have expected.
Although Chrome has been blocking flash content by default for a few months now, with more than 50 percent of the browser market, providing immediate access to blocking all ads could really impact Google’s bottom line. It’s not clear if Google’s rumored plan (thanks WSJ) would be to have the ad blocker enabled by default, or to just build the function into the browser itself, rather than requiring a third-party extension.
Google has of course not commented either way about the report, saying instead to ArsTechnica in a statement that it had merely: “been working closely with the Coalition for Better Ads and industry trades to explore a multitude of ways Google and other members of the Coalition could support the Better Ads Standards.”
The Coalition For Better Ads analyses the type of ads that aggravate web users enough that they adopt ad blockers, so it could be that instead of blocking all ads, Google is considering blocking specific types. Pop-ups, auto-playing videos with sound, large sticky ads, and ads which can’t be skipped before a countdown finishes, rank as some of the worst. Perhaps Google is merely considering blocking ads of those types or providing such an optional functionality directly through Chrome.
It’s also possible that Google is merely looking to get ahead of the curve. With such a strong share of the browser market, any ad blocker Google implemented would immediately become the most wide-reaching in the world, which would give it some measure of control over the trend.
In that case, it could theoretically whitelist its own ads, making Google ads the most prominent. That could easily be seen as the exercise of monopoly power, though, which may give regulatory authorities pause for thought.