Google, which makes a lot of money through the AdWords and Doubleclick For Publishers programs, has predictably been late to the ad blocker train. What they’re finally going to do about it for Chrome might sound good for users, but it might also be a huge act of self-dealing by the browser publisher.
Instead of simply blocking all ads within the browser, as most ad blockers do, Google is expected to take a more nuanced approach. That’s a kinder way of saying they’re going to use their access as browser developers to pick winners and losers in the ad industry.
They’re already known for paying to have their own ads excluded from certain ad blockers:
Google already pays to be part of an “Acceptable Ads” program offered by software company Eyeo GmbH, for example, which develops popular ad-blocking tool Adblock Plus. As a result, advertising on Google’s search engine and some of the other ads it powers are allowed to pass through Adblock Plus’s filters.
It seems likely that Google would allow its own ads to pass through in a similar manner. Worse, they may penalize entire sites for individual ads, effectively embargoing certain ad providers:
In one possible application Google is considering, it may choose to block all advertising that appears on sites with offending ads, instead of the individual offending ads themselves. In other words, site owners may be required to ensure all of their ads meet the standards, or could see all advertising across their sites blocked in Chrome.
Chrome is a leading browser. Any action Google takes to prefer itself over other ad providers, is a major act of self-dealing in a high-stakes industry.