Two of the top tech companies are changing how web browsers will work. Google is changing Chrome and Apple is changing Safari. The next generation of these browsers won’t just read web pages but decide how they are shown. Web browsers have always just read website code and displayed it in a neutral way so everything looks basically the same no matter what browser you are using. This is changing to not just be a passive experience, but for the browsers to decide what should and should not be shown.
Both companies will bake ad blockers into their browsers and change how we see websites. Other changes like preventing videos from auto playing, pop up ads, or even just badly formatted ads are also being put into place. Safari will even have ‘Reader’ mode as a possible default setting that will not only take out all the ads, but adjust the layout and design so you’ll never even see the original website.
The first question that you might have is why Google, a company that makes its money from ad revenue and selling ads to be put onto websites, would build an ad blocker into its own web browser. Google has been a pretty upstanding citizen when it comes to ad networks. Others have allowed questionable types of content, auto-playing videos (that always seem to play on max volume), and inescapably large expanding ads. For the sake of neutrality, or maybe just because we didn’t know any better, we allowed the annoying ads to show up right next to the good (or at least well meaning, non-intrusive ones) and the web continued growing.
Things got out of hand and caused a serious backlash. Now there are huge amounts of privacy concerns, with people consistently using tools that block ads and prevent tracking pixels. The use of ad blockers has been on a huge rise with the ad block designers and the ad networks always trying to outsmart each other. A survey from the Interactive Advertising Bureau has over a quarter of all internet users implementing ad blockers.
This is something Google noticed. They knew that if the other ad networks went unchecked and indirectly kept increasing the amount of people using ad blockers, everyone would continue to lose future advertising business. The new version of Chrome won’t block every ad, just the ones that go over the line so that sites will be better for everyone. People won’t get annoyed and resort to more ad blocking software which keeps Google’s ad revenue safe.
I can’t wait for this as videos that auto play are a personal annoyance, not to mention the malicious ads that try to take over a site. However, it is still good to understand what is going on because we will now see the internet through the lens of Google and Apple. As benevolent as they are trying to be, this does go against the original intent of the internet. It won’t be truly neutral as it will be controlled, if only just slightly, by companies who are deciding how we should experience the web. The experience will undoubtedly be much better and more refined so I look forward to it. But they are walking a very fine line between helpfulness and control that could quickly get out of hand if no one pays attention.