Google announced today that Chrome will block resource-intensive ads. Examples of this are advertisements that break down cryptocurrency, are poorly programmed or are not optimized for network use. Chrome blocks these ads because they “drain battery life, overload congested networks, and cost money.” There are three possible thresholds that an ad can block: 4 MB of network data, 15 seconds of CPU usage in a 30-second period, or 60 seconds of total CPU usage. Google will experiment with this change “over the next few months” and introduce it “in late August” in the Chrome stable.
Not many know that the world’s most popular browser has an integrated ad blocker. Two years ago, Google joined the Coalition for Better Ads, a group that sets standards for the industry to improve consumer ads. Chrome blocks all Ads (including those owned by Google or served by Google) on websites where non-compliant ads appear, as defined by the coalition. In addition to ads, Google has also used Chrome’s ad blocker to combat “improper experiences”. The tool is meant to punish bad websites rather than block ads entirely.
Because ad blockers hurt publishers (like VentureBeat) who create free content, blocking all ads would not only paralyze one of the few monetization tools on the web, but also Alphabet’s main source of income. In fact, Google has a vested interest in improving the user experience on the Internet. Google̵
Disproportionate share of device resources
According to Google, “a fraction of a percent of ads” consume a disproportionate share of device resources, including battery and network data. The company measured the ads Chrome sees and selected the most outrageous ads, that is, those that “use more CPU or network bandwidth than 99.9% of all the ads it detects for this resource.”
According to Google, the threshold values (4 MB network data, 15 seconds of CPU usage in a period of 30 seconds, 60 seconds of total CPU usage) only make up 0.3% of the ads. Still, they account for 26% of the network data used by ads and 28% of the total CPU usage of ads. The following table from Google shows the total percentage of heavy and non-heavy ads as well as the total resource consumption of the individual ads.
Chrome limits the resources that a display ad can use before the user interacts with the ad. When an ad reaches one of the thresholds, the ad frame navigates to an error page that simply says “Ad removed”.
Clicking Details notifies the user that the ad has used too many resources.
Google wants to throw its weight around to reduce these numbers. The threshold values will then probably be adjusted. The goal? “To save our users’ batteries and data plans and to give them a good experience on the Internet.”
Google doesn’t want to just flip this simple promotion. The company wants to give ad creators and tool vendors time to “prepare these thresholds and integrate them into their workflows”. Google also shares reports with advertisers so they can see how Chrome’s ad blocker affects their ads.