Google Releases its Chrome-Based Ad Blocker, Critics Cry Foul

Google just released its Chrome-based ad blocker designed to stop ads from sites that are repeat offenders of the Coalition for Better Ads standard. Especially strict are Google’s standards for mobile ads; it will filter out pop-up ads, ad displayed before the content loads, autoplay video ads with sound, large sticky ads, flashing animated ads, fullscreen scroll-over ads and particularly dense ads. Some critics, however, say Google blacklisted ad formats that won’t impact its own business.

The Verge reports that, on the desktop, Google will block “pop-up ads, large sticky ads, autoplay video ads with sound, and ads” with a countdown before the content loads. “The majority of problematic ad experiences are controlled by the site owner,” said Chrome engineering manager Chris Bentzel.

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Google’s three-step process begins by evaluating sites, informing offending sites and allowing them to take action before the block is established. Chrome will start blocking the ads 30 days after the site “has been found to have a high number of violations and the owner ignores Google’s notification of these violations.”

Sites can use an API to see Google’s evaluation. Desktop and mobile users will see the blocker in Chrome’s address bar as well as a small prompt at the screen’s bottom, and “have the option to allow ads on a site that’s automatically blocked.”

Google also states that, “42 percent of sites that were failing the Better Ads standards have resolved their issues already.” But, for those that haven’t, Chrome will check each site againt EasyList filter, and block the request “if there’s a match.” Also, once blocked in Chrome, the ads will “be filtered at the network level to prevent them from loading at all.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “some in the industry say the ad giant’s move is self-serving, and they contend Google overly influenced the process that selected which ad types to block,” in order to improve its own bottom line. Google states that the new ad-blocking policy is “the work of a collective, industry-wide effort designed to rid the Internet of spammy ads like pop-ups, and make other ads more appealing to users.”

But some critics state that, “Google’s leading role in the standard-setting process troubled some of the coalition’s members, who observed that the blacklisted ad formats generally don’t apply to Google’s own business.” “This looks like an effort by Google to use its strong market position in browsers in order to prevent users from adopting third-party apps that block ads Google wants to make money from,” said Silicon Valley trust lawyer Gary Reback.

Google has a major presence in online advertising, responsible for “about $3 out of every $10 spent on digital ads” and generating “over $95 billion in ad sales last year.” The Chrome browser is now used by “more than 59 percent of Internet users,” and some accuse Google of using its ad-blocker so that “advertisers may shift more dollars to Google sites and products, which are less likely to be blocked by the Chrome browser.”

The European Union’s commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager says she will closely watch the impact of the Chrome ad blocker.