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article imageGoogle plans to add a built-in ad blocker to Chrome

By James Walker     Apr 20, 2017 in Technology
Google is planning to add a built-in ad-blocking feature to its Chrome web browser, according to a report. It will be available on Chrome's desktop and mobile apps and could be unveiled next month. It's already facing scrutiny from industry bodies.
Google is as yet undecided on whether to proceed with the project, people familiar with the concept said to the Wall Street Journal. The company is outlining how it could add native ad blocking to Chrome, effectively making the scores of existing extensions in the Chrome Web Store redundant.
The company is currently working through the details of the kinds of ad it would block. It's expected to follow the standards for "unacceptable" ads laid out by the Coalition for Better Ads, a consortium of relevant industry members.
This would lead to intrusive ad formats such as prestitials, pop-ups and auto-playing video and audio being removed from webpages. Well-placed ads that do not detract from the content would not be affected.
Google is also considering an approach where it would target sites rather than ads. Sites which regularly use offending ads would have them all blocked in Chrome. Publishers with a good record for proper ad use would not be impacted.
Under this arrangement, Google would force sites to take responsibility for their own content. Considered use of ads would allow them to continue operating. Regularly displaying intrusive formats may trigger a whole-site ad block. While this seems harsh, it could steer the industry towards a new take on webpage ads that's sustainable for users and publishers.
Despite being entirely unofficial, news of the feature has already attracted the attention of antitrust bodies. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, currently in charge of multiple investigations into the company's products, said she'll be following any Chrome ad-blocker "closely." Its effects will be monitored to ensure it doesn't harm the industry.
Chrome won't be the first browser to feature a native ad blocker even if Google perseveres with its plans. Opera has included ad blocking out-of-the-box for over a year, without rousing the attention of competition regulators. While its market share is low at around 1%, any investigation into Google is likely to require consideration of Opera's ad block implementation. It's turned off by default for new users.
As Google is one of the largest players in online advertising and relies on it for revenue, it'll be carefully considering how best to promote Chrome's ad blocker. The Wall Street Journal reports the feature is meant to be a defensive move.
With ad blocking already very popular, Google intends to use its large browser market share with Chrome to slow the growth of third-party providers. It's this unstated motive that the EU has already taken offence to, making the feature controversial before it's even been announced.
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