Why is the world’s big­gest ad­ver­tis­ing com­pany build­ing an ad blocker?

HWM (Malaysia) - - THINK - by James Lu

Google re­cently an­nounced plans to roll out an ad blocker in­te­grated into its Chrome web browser, due for re­lease some­time in early 2018. Google says that it won’t block all ads, but will in­stead tar­get those deemed ‘an­noy­ing’ as de­fined by the Coali­tion for Bet­ter Ads, which in­clude pop-ups, ads that auto-play sound, ads that force users to sit through a count­down be­fore load­ing the de­sired page, and a few more.

Google hopes that web­sites will drop these an­noy­ing ad for­mats al­to­gether, im­prov­ing brows­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­one. “We look for­ward to working with the Coali­tion as they de­velop mar­ket­place guide­lines for sup­port­ing the Bet­ter Ads Stan­dards, and are com­mit­ted to working closely with the en­tire in­dus­try to roll out these changes in a way that makes sense for users and the broader ad ecosys­tem,” said Google Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Srid­har Ra­maswamy.

The tricky is­sue here is, while Google sounds like it has good in­ten­tions when it comes to block­ing ads, it’s also the world’s largest ad­ver­tis­ing com­pany, with par­ent Al­pha­bet re­port­ing a mas­sive US$79.4 bil­lion (~RM340.8 bil­lion) in ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue in 2016. Num­ber two on that list? Sil­i­con for 89 per­cent of all dig­i­tal ad rev­enue growth in the United States last year, and 77 per­cent of to­tal ad spend­ing. As for the Coali­tion for Bet­ter Ads? The os­ten­si­bly third-party group lists both Google and Face­book as found­ing mem­bers.

So why would a com­pany that makes that much money from ad­verts, block ad­verts? Sim­ply put, Google won’t be block­ing its own ad­verts. Con­sider this: if you’re an ad­ver­tiser, what’s the one sure way to know Chrome won’t be block­ing your ad for be­ing an­noy­ing? Buy your ad­ver­tis­ing straight from Google. And with Chrome dom­i­nat­ing browser mar­ket share with a whop­ping 44.5 per­cent, Google has enough clout to do this.

There’s an­other good rea­son for Google to want to block ads. One of the big­gest thorns in Google’s side is third-party ad block­ers like AdBlock Plus, which has the abil­ity to block all ads - in­clud­ing Google’s. So, Google clearly hopes that with its new fea­ture, users won’t feel the need to use third-party ad block­ers any­more.

It’s hard to ar­gue against Google try­ing to make the In­ter­net a bet­ter place, but at the end of the day, Google has a huge fi­nan­cial stake in reg­u­lat­ing which ad­verts you get to see and which get blocked.

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