Back in April, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google had plans to include a built-in ad-blocker in an upcoming version of Chrome. Today, users of the most popular desktop browser in the world got their first taste of what the future of web-browsing could be like, when the ad-blocking feature was included in the latest update to Chrome Canary — the work-in-progress version of Google Chrome, meant primarily for developers and those crazy folks called beta-testers.
For users running the latest version of Canary, the built-in ad-blocker is automatically enabled upon launch. (If you want to turn it off, you can visit the Content section under Settings on an enabled Chrome browser near you.) However, unlike popular Chrome extensions like Adblock, the feature doesn’t block all ads, only the ones that Google deems to be particularly intrusive.
So what’s considered intrusive in Google’s book? The ad-blocker follows the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads, which deems invasive advertisements like pop-up ads, autoplaying video ads with sound, prestitial ads, and large sticky ads to be unacceptable.
However, advertisements that Google deems to be unobtrusive will get to stay — meaning most contained banner and sidebar ads will probably continue to annoy you, Chrome-blocker enabled or not. Users will have the option to add specific domains to a designated “Block” or “Allow” list, but it remains to be seen exactly what this means in practice, as the feature hasn’t yet been fully enabled on the latest version of Canary.
Google doesn’t want people to call the feature an “ad-blocker” — it instead insists it’s merely a tool for “filtering ads” — but that doesn’t change the fact that what it does is … well, block ads. And while the idea of a built-in function that spares us all from the horrors of autoplaying videos sounds heavenly, no matter what you call it, it’s worth considering the worrying amount of control such a feature would give companies like Google over their competitors.
Allowing Google — a business that gets the vast majority of its revenue from ad sales — to become the de facto gatekeeper for the eyes of the majority of desktop-browser users could result in some serious conflicts of interest. And, with the inclusion of this semi-complete version of the feature in the latest beta, it’s looking like this will be an issue that users and advertisers alike will have to confront sooner rather than later.