Will Google move to block adverts from its Chrome browser?

Google’s vast wealth and huge influence is built on one thing – advertising – so it might seem bizarre for the search giant to make it less likely that users would see ads. But the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is planning to introduce ad-blocking in its popular Chrome web browser.
The report says the feature would come to new mobile and desktop versions of the browser and would filter out bad ad experiences. There is no doubt that this would be welcomed by many users, with plenty already using a third party extension to block adverts – the most popular one, AdBlock, claims it has 40 million users.
Google says it does not comment on rumours, but released a statement saying: "We’ve been working closely with the Coalition for Better Ads and industry trades to explore a multitude of ways Google and other members of the Coalition could support the Better Ads Standards."
It seems likely then that the report is accurate and that Google will paint the initiative as part of its continuing drive to improve the user experience. After all, Chrome already blocks pop-up ads whenever you open a new tab.
Nevertheless, such a move from the company which acts as the gatekeeper to the web for millions and has a huge share of online advertising – a third of all mobile ad revenue in the US according to one estimate – is bound to prove controversial.
Even though the Wall Street Journal report has not been confirmed, the European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has already commented in a tweet, saying "We will follow this new feature and it’s (sic) effects closely."
The EU is already investigating a wide range of Google’s activities, with the search giant accused of abusing its dominance everywhere from its shopping service to the Android mobile operating system.
Google will have the backing of many – even in the advertising industry – when it argues that bad ads are not doing anybody any favours, either those who have to suffer them as they browse or the companies hoping to reach consumers without antagonising them.
The Coalition for Better Ads, which Google mentions in its statement, has done research on what kind of digital advertising annoys users most.
It will come as no surprise to find that pop-ups enrage many, as do autoplaying video ads and so-called prestitial ads, which appear when you try to reach a page and delay your access to the content you are trying to reach.
If Google Chrome can help remove these irritants from the web browsing experience then it is bound to win applause from users. But if it is seen as using its power to decide which advertisers are allowed to reach its vast audience, then it can expect the competition regulators to come knocking again.