Google caused consternation in the publishing industry back at the start of June, when it said it would start blocking many ads in its market-leading Chrome browser.
Well, the feature is now here – sort of. Although Google said the blocking would only start next year, the latest “Canary” version of Chrome for Android lets people opt into blocking advertisements “from sites that tend to show intrusive ads.”
The Canary versions of Chrome aren’t for general consumption. They’re unstable, experimental builds of the app that are only recommended for developers and other advanced users who want to check out the very latest under-development features.
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So, what qualifies as an “intrusive” ad? That’s down to the criteria set by the Coalition for Better Ads, a marketing industry body that’s trying to get a handle on the revenue-threatening ad-blocking situation. Its membership includes the online ad giants Google and Facebook, publishers such as Reuters and the Washington Post, and advertisers such as P&G.
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According to the group’s stated standards, intrusive ads include those that pop up out of nowhere, take up too much of the screen, use animations or auto-playing video content, or force you to look at a countdown before being able to read the article you’re trying to access.
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The idea is that forcing publishers to ditch these annoying tactics will steer people away from installing popular browser extensions that block ads altogether. Advertising revenue is the lifeblood of most online publishing, and Google and Facebook heavily dominate the market for connecting advertisers with publishers’ readers.
However, Google’s foray into ad-blocking has raised eyebrows, because the company’s browser has more than 50 percent market share for both desktops and mobile devices. When the feature makes its way into the versions of Chrome that consumers use, antitrust regulators around the world will no doubt be watching to see whether Google lets through ads from its own network while blocking those from smaller rivals’ ad networks.
For now, the feature seems to be disabled by default. If you want to turn it on, you can find it in the settings menu of the experimental Chrome version.