Yes, that’s right. Google has become one of the biggest companies in the known universe thanks to its advertising revenues, and it’s going to include an ad-blocker in its browser
Actually, that’s not strictly true. They are not going to block all ads. Instead they are going to try to filter out ads that are just too annoying for even the most laid-back internet surfer.
So who gets to decide that an ad is just too awful? There’s a group including Google, News Corporation, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Facebook, and lots of others, that call themselves “The Coalition for Better Ads“.
They have initially defined four types of ads that fall below the level of acceptability for desktop browsers. These are:
- Pop-up ads. These appear after the main content of the page has started to load and block some or all of the content.
- Auto-playing video ads with sound. As the name implies, the sound starts without any interaction on the user’s part. Ads requiring a click to start the sound don’t cause the same annoyance and aren’t included by the Group.
- Prestitial Ads with Countdown. These ads appear before the main content of the page and force the user to wait a number of seconds before they disappear. Goodness knows what “prestitial” means. You can’t consult the Oxford English dictionary online for free any more. Chambers Dictionary doesn’t know what it means and neither does the excellent (and free) WordWeb.
- Large Sticky Ads. Sticky ads cling to the page no matter how much you try and scroll to get them to go away. They are deemed to be “large” if they take up more than 30% of the screen.
There are even more types for mobile devices, but I think you probably get the idea. There’s no attempt (yet) to filter out ads on the basis of taste.
The reason for taking action on the most annoying types of web ads is that online advertisers are worried about ad blockers undermining the effectiveness of their ads. The more annoying that ads become, the more people will install ad blockers, so the more their revenue will be affected. Many, many, websites are only able to function because of the advertising revenue they generate.
Undoubtedly, there is an argument for saying that the internet will be a better place with fewer of these very annoying advertising practices. Isn’t it just a bit worrying, though, that Google (producer of the Chrome browser and purveyor of most of the ads on the internet) should be instrumental in deciding just what is, and what is not, acceptable as far as online advertising is concerned? I don’t think we can expect any of Google’s own advertising practices to be called into question by the “Coalition for Better Ads” (of which it is a member).
I’ve got a feeling, though, that it might be just a tad too late for the likes of me to start worrying about how much power Google wields! Think I’ll just be grateful that some of the worst online advertising practices might just become extinct in the near future.
And just in case (like me) you still think ad blockers are a good idea – have a look at this blog post about Adblock Plus.
Tip: some websites are now blocking access to users who user ad blockers. If I come across one of these, I usually say “fair enough” and leave the site. If, however, I really do want to access something on such a site, this is how I go about it:
- I have another browser installed (“Opera” in my case) that I rarely use and in which I haven’t installed an ad blocker.
- If a site blocks me, I click on the address bar and then click Control c (Command c on a Mac). This copies the web page address into the clipboard.
- I then open Opera, click on the address bar, and click Control v (Command v on a Mac). This pastes the address into Opera and I can access the content without disturbing the ad blocker on my normal browser.