Google has an absurd amount of power over how people make money off the internet. It’s not just that they own the biggest search engine in the world, they also own the most popular browser to access the internet on (and thus see ads with), they have the deepest set of data for advertising research, and they also make their money from advertising. Google makes billions serving ads. And now they’re trying to dictate how and where ads are served.
Granted, the internet is an endless war between content providers trying to keep the lights on, and readers complaining about advertising tactics. But Google’s latest moves in Chrome against autoplaying ads, according to its blog post on the updates, only sound good until you look at the details:
Starting in Chrome 64, autoplay will be allowed when either the media won’t play sound, or the user has indicated an interest in the media. This will allow autoplay to occur when users want media to play, and respect users’ wishes when they don’t. These changes will also unify desktop and mobile web behavior, making web media development more predictable across platforms and browsers.
The irony is that these “protections” might, depending on how you have your browser configured, mean you see more autoplaying ads. As TechCrunch points out, Google is disabling certain autoplay options to “unify” the experience, especially on mobile. Video will autoplay even when you have Data Saver mode enabled, and you won’t be able to block autoplay any longer. You’ll have to go in and configure site by site. The upside, from a user perspective, is that Google will let you just mute audio from sites now, and that’ll stand even if you close your browser.
But, again, that’s not really the point. Google is, at root, an ad agency, and not only that, they are an ad agency that serves millions, or quite possibly even billions, of unskippable autoplaying video ads every single day. We sincerely doubt they’re going to let you block YouTube preroll ads with these fancy new Chrome features, especially not when they’re currently trying to get you to pay them $10 a month to skip those ads.
There are fair points on all sides of the debate of internet advertising. But the reality is, Google can’t moderate a solution to this debate when it’s got billions at stake on how that argument ends. Google needs you to look at the ads it sells, and in the end, it’s more likely to value profit over fair play. It’s a business, after all.