Chrome to take ad blocking worldwide in July

Google's browser targets what it calls 'disruptive' advertising and will expand blocking practices it's had in place in North America and Europe since last year.

Google plans to go global with Chrome's ad-blocking in July, expanding the practice from North America and Europe, where it's been in place for nearly a year.

Beginning July 9, 2019, Chrome will ... stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly display (disruptive ads)," Ben Galbraith, senior product director of Chrome, wrote in a Jan. 9 post to a company blog.

Google first directed Chrome to "filter" online ads - its preferred label for the practice - in February 2018. Then, the company announced its browser would expunge all ads from sites that displayed advertisements identified as the most annoying on the web. The "disruptive" ad types were those that violated the "Better Ads Standards" set by an industry group named "Coalition for Better Ads" (CBA).

Although Google distanced itself from the "what's-disruptive?" determination, the Mountain View, Calif. firm was a founding member of the group and with Microsoft and Facebook, among the largest vendors on its rolls. Research conducted by Google researchers also formed the intellectual foundation of the prickly question of which ads were to be targeted. The CBA used that research to advocate ad scouring.

More importantly, Google's browser is the enforcer for any decision made by the CBA. Chrome last month accounted for more than two-thirds - 67.2% to be exact - of all user share, a measurement by analytics vendor Net Applications of browser activity. Chrome was the most-used browser, by far, on the planet, with the second-place Firefox holding a minuscule-by-comparison share of 9.6%.

It has been the power of Chrome and its vast constituency that weights the CBA's determinations. Without Chrome's popularity, any talk of "Better Ads Standards" and sanctions against sites that pitch ads violating those rules would likely meet the same fate as earlier attempts to wrangle the web's advertising.

So it was no surprise when Galbraith touted the program's impact. "Chrome's enforcement of the Coalition's standards has inspired many website owners to improve the advertising experience on their sites in a way that benefits users," he wrote. Truthfully, inspired might be too passive a verb for the pressure sites felt to abide.

Galbraith also dipped into some stats about the CBA's effectiveness, claiming that as of the first of this year, "two-thirds of all publishers who were at one time non-compliant ... are now in good standing. Further, out of millions of sites we've reviewed to date, less than 1% have had their ads filtered.

But some sites have avoided the Chrome hammer using methods other than toeing the Better Ads Standards. Galbraith did not mention that, but the CBA did - in a round-about way - in its own press release last week.

"Approximately 70 publishers representing nearly 300 domains and 27 countries have certified compliance with the Coalition's Standards and the requirements of the Better Ads Experience Program," the organization stated.

By "compliance," the CBA referred to a voluntary, self-validating model under which site publishers pay the group a fee to be placed on a whitelist that escapes ad filtering. Under the umbrella label of "Better Ads Experience Program," the CBA will collect moneys from publishers. (The program's details have been spelled out in this document.)

According to another CBA document, 71 publishers have joined the program, including Dow Jones and its wsj.com and barrons.com sites, and Vice Media, with websites such as vice.com and sports.vice.com.

Google's July 9 date for switching on worldwide ad-blocking did not sync with a planned upgrade of the browser: Chrome 75 is now slated for release June 4 and Chrome 76 for July 30.

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