Google is many things. They’re a search engine, self-driving car company, and even a phone maker. Yet while their parent company, Alphabet, makes a nice chunk of change from their crazy and innovative projects, there’s one source of revenue that nets the company hundreds of billions each year: ads.
Google is first and foremost an ad company. They show you ads in searches and most websites on the internet. They mine your Gmail account for information about how to sell you ads better. They even use your phone to learn more about you for the express purpose of showing you ads you want to see. This makes up the bulk of the company’s revenue, and is how the company became one of the biggest tech companies in under 20 years.
So why would Google, an ad company, make the decision block ads in their Chrome web browser? Better yet, why would they prevent a sizable percentage of web users from seeing ads if they make money?
Google makes billions on ads
Last week, Alphabet/Google ($GOOG) announced a whopping $21.4 billion made in advertising revenue. This was up around $3 billion from the previous year. Google sells ads for their search engine and for placement on other sites, like ours. This allows people to pay for promoted search queries and helps websites make revenues by displaying ads. Since countless companies participate in the company’s many ad programs, the $21.4 billion figure isn’t too surprising.
Google H-A-T-E-S bad ads.
Google started an advertising consortium called the Coalition for Better Ads with the likes of Facebook, News Corp, and Thomson Reuters. This group pledges to serve ads that don’t worsen a user’s experience on a website. The Coalition is vehemently against pop-up ads, ads that automatically play videos with sound, and ads that prevent a user from seeing most or all of a website. These are “bad ads” in the eyes of Google and company, which could drive users away and prevent them from supporting a website in the future.
Google pretty much owns half of all web traffic.
According to NetMarketShare, 59% of all users browsing the web use Google’s Chrome browser. This staggering stat point lets the company influence web standards, drive users to their search engine, and serve them the ads that keep Google afloat. Why would the company block ads for 59% of all web users?
Google Chrome’s ad blocker would (hypothetically) only block bad ads.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, the ad-blocker slated to be included by default in future editions of Chrome will only block the aforementioned bad ads. This means that Coalition for Better Ads will still have their ads shown. Ads created by non-members or ads that disrupt the user experience would be blocked, supposedly by default.
Many sites rely on bad ads to survive.
“Fake news” sites, clickbait sites, and other less-than-desirable sites rely heavily on pop-ups, pop-overs, and annoying ads. Many “legit” sites, however, also use ads that stray outside the CBA’s guidelines or aren’t part of their membership. If Chrome blocked ads, these sites would likely have to use CBA-approved vendors or ads if they wanted to stay in business, which would mean more money for Google and friends.
This is all just speculation, according to Google.
When asked about a possible Chrome ad-blocker, Google told site Ars Technica “We do not comment on rumor or speculation.” They also stated, “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.” Regardless of their denial, the WSJ report all but confirms the company is working on an ad-blocker.
This move would potentially force the above sites into partnerships with CBA members. This means more revenue for the company and (likely) a more valuable stock. It would also set a scary precedent on just how much influence the tech giant has on the internet, potentially to the point of putting hundreds of sites out of business.