Google is planning to block “heavy ads” in Chrome

Until we find a better model, advertising is essential for free websites to survive. But there’s no denying that certain adverts have harmed the cause, slowing computers to a crawl with bloated code and unnecessarily large files, pushing consumers towards ad blockers that strip sites of their income.

Now Google is experimenting with a new feature for Chrome that should mitigate the damage and provide some kind of middle ground. It’s an ad blocker that simply targets adverts that have been so poorly designed that they actively impact the performance of the computer they’re targeting.

Right now, it’s not in the main Chrome build, but in the latest Chromium commit. The change promises to target adverts that use too much CPU power or send too much data.

This intervention unloads ads that are in the .1% of bandwidth usage, .1% of CPU usage per minute, and .1% of overall CPU time,” the description reads. “The current numbers are 4MB network and 60 seconds CPU, but may be changed as more data is available.”

According to 9to5Google, which got its hands on a preview, the feature only targets these heavy adverts, letting lighter ones slip through unchallenged. When an advert is removed, a notice appears in its place simply reading “Ad removed” with a link for further details. Clicking that presents a simple sentiment: “This ad used too many resources for your device, so Chrome removed it.”

On the surface of it, it sounds like a reasonable solution. Most people accept that the trade off for free content is some kind of advertising, but adverts that actively impact performance aren’t good for anyone: the user, the site or, ultimately, even the advertiser. It’s possible that Google might not be in the best place to do it, though, given it’s already being carefully scrutinised for anti-competitive practices, and its own light adverts will likely get a free pass. 

That’s assuming the feature ever gets built into the main version of Chrome, of course. Features seen in Chromium source aren’t guaranteed to ever get a full release, after all.

Does this sound like a sensible middle ground for ad blocking? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.

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