Is Google building a Chrome Adblocker?

 

News that Google is developing a Chrome adblocker feature is causing ripples in the online advertising space.

Following the release of the story on the Wall Street Journal, much of the discussion at this point is speculative. Google has not yet made any announcements relating to the Chrome adblocker. However, if Google does decide to move forward, this move could be a rude awakening for both advertisers and publishers.

Reasons the Chrome Adblocker is Likely

There is a distinct and growing trend towards users seeking out third party adblocking software. According to the CFBA study of internet user behavior, 26% of users are currently using adblockers.

With the promise of highly targeted ads, 2017 will be the first year that more advertising dollars will be spent online than on television. The Coalition for Better Ads studies the behaviors of web surfers, and how they interact with ads. The research indicates that demand for software that blocks advertisements has grown. This is most likely in response to advertisers creeping towards progressively more intrusive ads.

Besides, the move to develop a Chrome Adblocker wouldn’t be unprecedented. Many alternative options already exist on the market today.

Chrome is the most widely used web browser on the internet. Any upgrade by Google automatically uploads to all connected devices, so it’s entirely possible that the Chrome adblocker function will be activated by default on both mobile and desktop versions of the browser when that upgrade comes. On whatever day Google decides to ‘throw the switch,’ the impact to both advertisers and publishers will be felt immediately.

Industry Response to Adblockers

CFBA research concludes that when users encounter ads that block, delay, or distract from content that they are more likely to become frustrated and abandon the website. Many adblock services don’t discriminate between ads that meet the CFBA standards and those that fail them.

The trend towards adblocker adoption eats into a website’s revenues. Publishers have been experimenting with ways to ask users to voluntarily whitelist their site. This includes publishers like the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider. In these cases, publishers ask visitors to turn off adblockers before granting access to their content.

Other companies go one step further and pay adblocking software providers directly to have their ads whitelisted by default. Google themselves have such an arrangement with AdBlock Plus. This isn’t surprising, considering Google’s reliance on advertising revenues.

How the Chrome Adblocker Would Likely Work

It seems unlikely that the Chrome adblocker will block Google’s own ads. Instead, it’s likely to follow CFBA guidelines and punish advertisers that detract from user experience.

The Chrome adblocker would not block all ads, just unacceptable ads. The guidelines described by the CFBA have until now been voluntary. This move could effectively ‘force the hand’ of advertisers. Unless publishers are successful in getting users to whitelist their websites, many of the more intrusive ads will go largely unseen.

The more irritated the user, the more likely they will look for ad blocking software. Ads that popover, autoplay, use flashing or shaking graphics, and otherwise contribute to a negative experience are likely to be pushed aside. Ads that do not elbow their way into the user’s attention will likely pass through the filter.

In other words, advertisers and publishers will have to rely on CFBA best practices for acceptable ads. Improving the user experience has been the stated goal behind many of the sweeping changes Google has made in the past. It’s clear the CFBA guidelines align with those goals.

What Do We Know For Sure?

Google has not officially announced the release of the Chrome adblocker. It’s worth pointing out that the Silicon Valley giant develops products constantly, many of which never see the light of day.

Google also has a growing list of products that are launched and later scrapped. Any conjecture about “if & when” the Chrome adblocker will be released is just a guess.

However, consider the wide adoption of the browser. If the adblocker software is released in the upcoming weeks, it will make the Chrome adblocker the largest adblock solution available on the internet.

Also consider that when the browser updates, the adblocker software may default to the ‘on’ setting. That could precipitate a rapid and unparalleled move towards adblocker adoption that advertisers and publishers have never experienced before.

Conclusion

Advertising online won’t disappear. Revenues generated from advertisers are as fundamental to the growth of online content providers as to offline providers.

What is true — and will always be true — is that the online advertising landscape is always changing and evolving. Tools are already available to monitor adblocking responses. Admiral is one such service provider, using metric analysis to help publishers navigate best ad practices and the L.E.A.N. ads principles.

Adapting to the rise of adblockers is going to be part of doing business in the online space. That will be true whether or not Google launches the Chrome adblocker. If nothing else, the WSJ story will provide publishers and advertisers an opportunity to decide if they will be early to adapt, or if they will be late.

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