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War on intrusive ads could change web

News, 08 June 2017
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NEW YORK: With both Google and Apple taking steps to introduce ad blocking features to their browsers, the tech giants are not only addressing the current concerns of users but also potentially changing the way the web works.

Apple has added an ad tracker blocker for its Safari web browser as part of a series of updates of its desktop OS, while Google has confirmed that updates to its Chrome browser early next year will block the most annoying ads that currently plague consumers.

Firefox and Opera also offer such features but with Chrome and Safari accounting for two thirds of global browser usage, they are now becoming mainstream.

Wired observed that these developments "represent a shift in the way web browsers work", explaining that they were moving from a passive role to an active one.

"That means publishers will have to rethink not just their ads but their assumptions about what readers do and don't see when they visit their pages," it said.

Apple, for example, is not just blocking cookies to reduce tracking but is also giving users the option to display only the main content of a page.

"It means that a page's code could soon act more as a set of suggestions for how browsers should present its content, not a blueprint to be followed as closely as possible," Wired noted.

"That doesn't just change the way companies have to think about ads. It changes the relationship between reader and publisher—and between publishers and browser makers."

Makers of adblocking software, meanwhile, are sanguine about Google's limited move to block certain ad formats – it is not planning on endangering its main revenue stream – arguing that not only does it not go far enough to meet consumer concerns about intrusive ads but does nothing to meet their worries about tracking and malware.

Data sourced from Wired, TechCrunch, Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff

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