The internet has a sort of four-way intersection of hate when it comes to ads. Readers hate obnoxious ads (or in some cases, all ads). Content sites want readers, but also generally support themselves with ads. Thus, content sites hate adblockers. And adblockers hate everybody. And now Google has leaped into the middle of this mess by putting the entire internet on notice: An adblocker is likely coming to Chrome.
While ad blockers were initially created as a way to keep all advertisers out of your browsing experience, many of the companies that run blockers now only block ads until websites pay to be added to a whitelist or, as in Facebook’s case, outwit the adblocking companies. In other words, ad blockers basically get between websites and readers and demand that sites pay the ad blocker for the right to our eyeballs (bad for us, good for the ad blocker’s bottom line). This costs the internet $21 billion a year and Google has decided to stop the problem before it gets out of hand.
Google’s ad blocker doesn’t go quite as far as some. Instead it uses the standards of the Coalition for Better Ads to decide what ads get blocked. So the huge banner ad at the top of the page wouldn’t be blocked, but the website that opens eighty pop-ups would. But there’s a bigger problem here: The search giant really shouldn’t be entering this arena at all.
Google is the world’s biggest advertising agency, racking up billions every quarter by selling ads by the penny. It’s also how the majority of the world accesses the internet — Chrome was used by more than half the internet in 2016. Oh, and it also owns the most popular way to find things on the internet. Owning an ad blocker that the company controls just cements Google’s death grip on the internet. If you publish things online, and want to sell ads around your work — and almost every website on the internet does — you’ll soon be working at Google’s pleasure even more than you already were.
If Google wants to kill bad ad practices dead, it doesn’t need to build an ad blocker. All it needs to do is factor the ads used into its search results. Sites that comply with the standards will be ranked higher, those that don’t will be ranked lower.
Companies fight tooth and nail over search engine optimization, or SEO, and Google making it clear that bad ads ding your rankings would immediately change the habits of every site on the planet. Of course, this wouldn’t address the scourge of ad blockers and their attempts to become the man in the middle, but it would likely destroy the motives most people have for using ad blockers in the first place.