Google is adding a built-in ad blocker to both desktop and mobile versions of the Google Chrome web browser. Users will no longer need to visit the Chrome Web Store to download a third-party adblock extension.
These tools help users remove unwanted and/or suspicious advertisements from web pages. Many have questioned Google jumping in the game, seeing as it owns more than 15 percent of global ad spending. This potentially gives it a lot of power in deciding what ads are blocked for anyone using the new ad blocker.
This brings along some good, bad and mysterious consequences.
It totally makes sense for Google to add an ad-blocking mechanism into Chrome. The market for third-party ad blockers has steadily grown in recent years and, today, one in four users browsing on a desktop in the U.S. has some form of ad blocker installed.
Ads aren’t just annoying popups in the corner of your screen and commercials that play before a YouTube video. They can be devastating threats to both personal and corporate networks.
Malicious ads, often referred to as malvertising, grew 132 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to RiskIQ’s 2016 Malvertising Report. Some cases grew modestly, such as scareware and malicious injections at 26 percent and 58 percent increases, respectively. Others, though, appeared at much higher rates. Redirects to phishing pages and scammy or disingenuous ads grew at 1,979 percent and 846 percent, respectively, over the same period.
These are serious threats that come in the form of infectious viruses, ransomware, phishing attacks and everything in between. They come in visible forms like infectious popups and web widgets, but also as instantly-triggered downloads and compromised content delivery networks.
The threats don’t just prey on suspicious sites like PornHub or 4chan, they can be inserted into enormously popular websites and applications like the New York Times and Spotify.
Google Chrome is the most commonly used desktop browser in the world, with more than half the market share, according to StatCounter.com. Sometimes digital advertisers aren’t necessarily aiming to harm users, but they also do not abide by each rule regulating acceptable ads.
This isn’t necessarily bad for end-users. For example, I genuinely don’t care if a few harmless ads get blocked. However, many harmless advertisements are not considered “acceptable ads.” Therefore, advertisers who may not be attuned to the concept of acceptable ads are disenfranchised by an automatically installed ad blocker.
It’s a minor quibble, but it’s a fairly rigorous process to become a whitelisted site, and processes are usually isolated to individual ad-blocking agents. In addition, advertisers have to make it clear their ads are actually ads, place their ads in specific locations and make sure the ads are not too large.
In 2015, Google made 23 percent of its revenue ($15 billion) from AdSense, more than any other income source. Typically, adblockers follow the standards identified by the Coalition for Better Ads, but Google has not commented on specifics related to publishers other than AdSense.
Google employees have also stated they are considering an application that blocks any website that may contain any form of “offensive ads.” This would force site operators to abide by very specific standards in order to be visited in the world’s most widely used browser.
The last source of uncertainty comes to giving more power to the world’s most powerful digital advertising provider. Google already holds 40.7 percent of U.S. digital ad revenue. It would get a stronger hold on which ads are deemed acceptable and how ad-supported websites operate.
This wouldn’t just affect its hold on the advertising market, but the ad-blocking market as well. Third-party ad blockers would likely still be available as extensions, but the tools currently installed on more than 600 million devices would be rendered virtually useless on Chrome.
It’s still not clear when Google plans to implement its new ad-blocking agent, but as we near the implementation we’ll learn more about how it will operate and who will be affected. In the meantime, literally everyone should be cautious of threats to both their personal and professional devices.
To learn about everything from corporate network solutions to personal firewall tools, visit our IT Security software category to learn how to better protect your devices and your data.
We are the Leading Digital Business Magazine