Google will substitute ad blocking by "ad improving" in your browser and in your head

Google plans to add adblocking features to its Chrome browser, Wall Street Journal reports. They will appear in mobile and desktop Chrome, turned on by default, but will block only ads that are unacceptable by Better Ads standards. But these and other details are not clear yet, not only to Wall Street Journal but to Google itself.

The Better Ads standards have been developed by the Coalition for Better Ads, which unites large advertisers, publishers and ad-tech startups concerned by ad blocking growth. They have released a rating of ad experiences ranked by their tendency to annoy users and incline them to use ad blockers.

  1. Google is one of the Coalition’s founders, and some form of “homemade” ad blocking was expected and predicted to appear in its browser. Here are some reasons and consequences of this appearing as we see it. Google’s business is based on web advertising, and its profits depend on it almost entirely. Ad blocking threatens this business and must be taken under control. Simply banning ad blocking apps in Play Store and extensions in Chrome Web Store equals to ignoring users’ needs and demands, deteriorating the attitude to Google and its products and losing users to competitors. Taking ad blocking under control may help Google find the balance between guarding users against really annoying and interrupting ads, and delivering them more qualitative ad experience. Advertisers do not care much about web audience’s comfort, while publishers are more worried about keeping the audience on a site than giving clicks and views to advertisers. And it’s Google’s job to satisfy both sides.
  2. Competing with the existing ad blocking apps will let Google press them out of distribution channels including its own search results pages and Play Store search results. However, Google is very likely not to be allowed by antitrust authorities to discriminate other ad blockers in search results.
  3. Control over ad blocking is a very handy way to increase the profitability of Google’s own ad network. Since its ads are not getting filtered out, it will attract both publishers and advertisers.
  4. Google needs to compete with ad blocking mobile browsers like UC Browser whose popularity is on the rise, especially in Asia.
  5. Google replaces the very concept of removing ads by the idea of “improving” them and limiting unacceptable ads. Google needs us to think of ad blocking as of seeing only quiet, polite, and relevant ads while their total absence is just not an option.
  6. Quite possibly, ad networks and services, that compete with those belonging to the Coalition members, will keep on failing to meet the standards of Better Ads.

What will happen to ad blocking software market? We expect the audience of such apps to shift towards more advanced and experienced users, and people concerned about their privacy and personal information abuse. Google’s approach will not satisfy those who is unwilling to share their data with advertisers and other companies, as well as those for whom it’s important to see no ads at all.

If we want to predict some changes on the market, we can look what happens around Opera browser. In March 2016 ad blocking appeared there. Ad blocking Opera extensions are growing 30%-40% slower since then. The analogy is inaccurate, though -- Opera hasn’t turned ad blocking on by default, it needs to be activated in browser settings. On the other hand, it doesn’t exclude from blocking any “better ads”.

AdGuard as a premium software has always existed in a situation of competition with free products, and there are reasons to believe that its growth will not slow down.

Publishers and advertisers will need to adapt to the changes and review their inventory, getting rid of formats and tools that do not meet the Better Ads standards. Deprivation of some instruments, experiments with new ones and other adaptation measures may result in income decline and/or expenses growth.

Some will choose the path of least resistance and use the services of the Coalition’s for Better Ads participants. For example, websites will join Google AdWords.

We don’t expect Chrome to get the ad-blocking option within 3-4 months, but by the end of this year, the update with this feature will be released and received by all users. There will be a large and noisy media coverage. A majority of headlines will sound as if Google would have eliminated all ads in its browser, thus helping Google to perform the substitution of concepts described above, and replace ad blocking by “ad improving”.

Ad blockers had been invented and built in order to grant people control over what they see and experience in the Web. Over the data that they share with companies, over the limits of privacy that they can set for themselves. Selective ad blocking in Chrome is a way to give the control to Google.

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