Chrome Will Soon Block Autoplay Videos With Sound -- Here's Why You Should Be Worried

Google has surveyed the advertising landscape that it dominates and determined that it's time for a change. Beginning in January, its Chrome web browser will block autoplay video ads with sound by default. The effort is being framed as a drive to clean up the web, but it could just as easily be interpreted as a disguised move to further solidify Google's monopoly.

Image Sources: Google, Adblock

Back in April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google was planning to adopt the Coalition for Better Ads list of standards and apply them to a filter built into Chrome. The guidelines warn against using annoying formats like large sticky ads and the dreaded autoplay video with sound.

In June, the search giant confirmed that it would be moving forward with its own adblocker beginning in 2018. Thursday's blog post announcing the autoplay changes appears to be the beginning of the wider rollout that would block four types of egregious ads on desktop and mobile.

In October, the Chrome 63 release will add an option for users to disable audio completely on sites of the user's choosing. That update will be followed by the initiation of new autoplay policies in the Chrome 63 release in January. Chrome will automatically block videos ads unless the audio is muted, or it includes no audio at all.

If the user tapped or clicked somewhere on the site during the browser session the video will be enabled. White listing will be available to mobile users by adding a website to the home screen and, on a desktop, the video will be allowed if the user "frequently played media on the site" based on standards outlined in the Media Engagement Index.

There are a couple of ways to look at this development. On the one hand, internet advertising needs to change, people hate it and they're doing their best to get around it. That's bad for publishers and advertisers; publishers need the revenue and advertisers don't want you associating their product with that time you scared the crap out of the office with a blaring ad.

But there's also the very real worry that Google is assembling the scaffolding to take over the few parts of digital advertising it doesn't control yet.

A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau last July found that 26 per cent of desktop users and 15 per cent of mobile users are already using some form of adblocker, as marketers counteract that effort with more aggressive strategies, those numbers will surely continue to grow.

Google makes billions on advertising and knows that this isn't good for its future. It's also not good for the ad-supported web. Like it or not, most websites survive on ad dollars, and there's going to be a lot less free content if the ads aren't getting served to users.

According to the online analytics firm StatCounter, Chrome controls a little over 54 per cent of the worldwide browser market. Safari is its closest competitor with 14 per cent. Google is pretty much the only entity with the power to bully advertisers into creating a less abrasive browsing experience.

Most people aren't going to go into their settings to make adjustments, or even know that they can. Many sites will resist at first, but as they see their stats drop off over time, they will comply.

Fewer annoying ads means fewer people shutting them off, more revenue for publishers, more impressions for advertisers, and happier users browsing. This, it would seem, is good for everyone. Unfortunately, the company's adblocking effort gets far more problematic, as our greatest concern is now coming to fruition: Google is assembling its own list of "good" publishers.

When the adblocking feature was first announced, we were hopeful that this move could be a positive development. One of our primary areas of concern was the possibility that Google would implement an "Acceptable Ads" list that websites can pay to be a part of.

Google, along with other media giants like Amazon and Microsoft, reportedly pays Adblock Plus to white list its services. One unnamed company told the Financial Times in 2015 that the fee was "equivalent to 30 per cent of the additional ad revenues that it would make from being unblocked."

Google is implementing a similar program called Funding Choices that allows approved websites to show users a popup when they visit the site. A user has the option to turn off third-party adblocking software or pay a fee for an ad-free experience through the Google Contributor program. This option is simultaneously exciting and deeply troubling.

Google's program, in theory, a better option than the one from Adblock Plus. Instead of telling sites, "we'll take a portion of the cash that our service would have 'stolen' from you," Google's Contributor program is saying, "here's a way to recoup lost revenue from users who are open to paying you."

But Adblock Plus is a much smaller company than Google and it's not embedded in practically every facet of digital life. I'm far more comfortable with a small, independent company having control over a white list than I am with an unstoppable force like Google holding all the cards.

It's easy to interpret the changes Google is making as an attempt to kill third-party adblocking services and simultaneously gain the power to block its advertising competitors. According to a report from eMarketer, Google controls 75.8 per cent of the search ad market and 40.7 per cent of the US digital ad market.

Coming in second place is Facebook with 19.7 per cent of the digital ad share in the US. And both companies are members of the Coalition for Better Ads, the organisation setting the standards for acceptable ads in Chrome. Mark Patterson, a Fordham legal scholar and author of Antitrust Law in the New Economy, has called the coalition "a cartel orchestrated by Google."

Pushing advertisers to create a better browsing experience seems like it's good for everyone. But as the public and regulators around the world are waking up to the urgent need to rein in Silicon Valley's most dominant players, this seems like a weird time to start implementing a system that would give Google even more leverage in its field.

At a certain point, people have to ask if a company is only a monopoly when it abuses its power, or if it's already a monopoly because of its potential to abuse that power.

[Google via The Next Web]

WATCH MORE: Tech News


Comments

    Anything that reduces the amount of ads is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Especially all those annoying ones that block the page you're reading but if Google is serious about this then maybe they should look into their own backyard. The amount of ads on YouTube is ridiculous. It's almost got to the point where i couldn't be bothered watching YouTube anymore.

      Well, the real idea behind all the ads is to get you to subscribe to YouTube Red... looks like their approach is having the opposite effect.

    Sorry but with the amount of annoying ads everywhere this days uBlock or another adblocker is a must

    What needs to be cast down to the last circle of hell are those autoplay videos that you essentially cannot pause.

    autoplay videos are the number 1 worst thing on the internet right now. It doesn't even matter if it isn't an ad. I don't want a video to play without me clicking a play button. I honestly don't care if Google has a monopoly on a white list because I would change it. Just like I currently add websites with unobtrusive ads to my white list now. (Gizmodo being one).

    Lol. No. This is not a problem in the slightest. These videos are fucking awful. I don't care if Google has a monopoly, these videos are garbage and need to die.

    Auto play disabled???
    I want Auto Stream/Download for Video Ad's Disabled!!!
    And if I have to go though an Video Ad I want them All to be LOW RES.
    Because I don't have a lot of Data Cap on Mobile.

    Ads that pause my Apple Music stream, while I’m browsing the web on my phone, shit mean to no end!

    Originally, it was only happening on this site, now it’s started happening on a couple of news sites I frequent, as well.

    They’re turning the Music stream off to play the audio of the ad, which my Ad Blockers are preventing from playing. So messed up.

    All I want to do is browse the web on the device I purchased outright, while listening to Music I’ve prepaid the month for, using a data plan that doesn’t rollover into the next month, without it pausing during every other page load.

    Is that too much to ask?

    This is one of the many reasons I’m slowly moving all my services away from Google.
    I would rather use Apple and Microsoft’s services as they both have revenue sources that aren’t based on selling advertisin. As Tim Cook once said “If you don’t pay for a service you are the product”

    So you need to actively ad the site to a list?
    That ends up being a bit on the useless side.

    Or you could use the Brave browser.

    Sounds like your autoplay bullshit that somehow gets around HTML5 disabler, flash disabler and UBlock will finally be dealt with and now you're mad. boo hoo.

    Thanks for the video or whatever at the end of every article you post, I didn't want that data anyway. Maybe this add on will fix it?

    The amount of not just annoying ads but resource heavy ads that have a very negative effect on web browsing is getting worse, way worse with Java and HTML 5 than it was with Flash, and Gizmodo has been one of the worst culprits.
    It's that kind of thing that drives ad-blocking. The worse the ads get the more our hatred of them increases.
    Google blocking them can only be a good thing.

    Gotta say I am all for blocking autoplay videos. I can't think of a single reason why I would want a video to autoplay. I'm not even talking about advert ones. I use uBlock Origin and only see ads on sites I whitelist so I'm not even worried about those. But there are tons of sites that autoplay regular videos. News.com.au autoplay the news videos on their articles for example. I would love to block them from autoplaying! Maybe this will help with that.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now