Online advertisements are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, displaying promotional adverts – especially when they are clicked – is the main way that a website can pay for its running costs. However, adverts can be sluggish, intrusive and even inject malware into a target computer. Darin Fisher, vice president of Google’s Chrome engineering department, has been speaking to CNET and explained that the company sees “lots of challenges in advertising.” In particular, there are many ways for a company to hurt its reputation through advertising. Fisher highlights that online advertising correctly applied can be a great thing for building the brand, but also says: “A lot of the advertising we see is unfortunate in that it probably hurts engagement.” This means that potential online customers shy away from ad-heavy websites, or when an invasive ad takes over part of the screen, this is negative for the brand in question. We’ve also seen a number of web browsers supporting ad-blocking plugins and even the Opera browser blocking these by default as part of the application.
For Google Chrome, however, the company has no plans to include an ad-blocking technology into the browser. The business unit would rather fix the problem than hide them by removing them from websites being displayed. And this should be no surprise given that Google generates a significant proportion of its profits from online advertising – for the third quarter 2016, the company reported almost $20 billion in ad revenue. It would not be good practice to include ad-blocking technology into the Chrome browser, especially as a default option, as there are around two billion computers using Chrome around the world. Google is one of the founder members of a group called the “Coalition for Better Ads,” which is working on improving online advertising standards. This group includes a number of online publishers (such as Facebook, News Corp. and The Washington Post) together with advertisers and other industry groups (including Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Association of National Advertisers). The company has also included technologies in the Chrome browser designed to accelerate some of the slower procedures that online adverts may use, such as the ability to disable the “document.write” feature that’s included in some ads when the browser is using a slow connection. The document.write feature can greatly slow down how long a network takes to load a webpage, extending the time into “tens of seconds.”
Google’s take on online advertising is that the Internet is akin to an ecosystem and that there must be balance between the needs of the website publishers and the readers: ads are a means of funding websites, but unless they are designed to users’ needs in mind, they quickly become invasive and defeat their purpose.