Chrome blocking adverts? Surely not.
Despite claims to the contrary by the advertising industry, many internet users do not want adverts, and a growing number of people are turning to advert blocking software to make web browsing more palatable. Now Google has built an advert blocker into the latest version of Chrome.
According to research by The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), the number of Britons using ad blockers in their browser rose significantly between 2015 and 2016, from 15% to 21%, but says it has levelled off to about 22% during 2017. The IAB is a UK membership organisation which represents the interests of advertising agencies, online media owners, and the companies who wish to use the internet as an advertising vehicle.
Are the IAB figures correct? There is some question of people confusing ad-blocking software with antivirus software, so the IAB argues the actual figure may be lower than surveys indicate. On the other hand, it could be argued that many more people would use completely free products like AdBlockPlus and uBlock if only they knew these products existed and realised they are easy to use. On a global scale, AdBlockPlus reckons that 11% of internet users worldwide are using its product each day, and that far from levelling off, usage grew by 30% in 2017.
Why do people use adblocking software? There are a good many reasons for this. Historically the advertising industry has shown little regard for user-experience on the internet and wanted its adverts to be as intrusive and eye-catching as possible. This has resulted in all manner of abominations, such as the animated and flashing adverts that clamour for attention, the adverts that pop-up over the page, the adverts that appear when you try to leave a page or which scroll over content as you try to read it, and adverts which mimic browser dialogs and mislead you into thinking it is something you need to deal with. The latest trendy idea is the self-playing video which suddenly blares out of the speakers when you least expect it.
There have also been far too many cases of wholly inappropriate adverts and offensive adverts being placed on pages, and of unrestrained tracking and profiling of people without any consideration of privacy. Added to that, ads eat up bandwidth, noticeably slow down page load speed, and sometimes are used as a vehicle to deliver malware. Is it any surprise that people want to block ads?
Could all that change with the inclusion of the ad-blocker in Google Chrome? Google's browser enjoys a dominant market position and the latest version of Chrome removes ads from websites that don't meet standards laid out by the Coalition for Better Ads. Is this the wake up call that the advertising industry needs?
Two things need to be kept in mind. One is that Google is a founder member of the coalition for better ads, so the dominant player in the world of online advertising is using its dominant browser to enforce its own standards on the industry. Some worry that this can only put Google into an even more dominant position.
The other pertinent fact is that Google's own figures show that it audited 100,000 websites carrying ads and says only 1.5 percent of sites failed to meet coalition standards, and just 0.9% were bad enough to warrant ad removal. Clearly a lot of existing AdBlock users are going to be unimpressed by that statistic, but now the advertising industry will be able to claim that more than 99% of online advertising meets a "recognised standard of acceptability", and hence further justify its hostility to ad blocking.
27th February 2018
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