Google Chrome To Prevent Resource Hungry ‘Heavy Ads’ From Loading In The Browser, But Is It A Good Thing?

Google’s Chrome browser is being fine-tuned to block advertisements that are resource hungry. Google prefers to call them “Heavy Ads” because they tend to take up a significant amount of bandwidth and CPU processing power to work within the browser. This may seem like a good way to prevent ads. However, does it mean Google is suggesting ad developers and managers to ensure their ads are in compliance with its policies?

Ads could very well be funding the internet or sponsoring the content on the web. However, on several occasions, intrusive and obtrusive ads heavily and negatively impact the web experience. Google Chrome continues to remain one of the most popular web browsers. And to ensure it remains one of the most preferred, Google has taken an interesting approach. The search giant is working on a way for Chrome to automatically block some “heavy ads” on the web. Apparently, Google intends to prevent ads that slow down the Chrome browser to load in the window. Instead of the heavy ad, Google Chrome will display a simple banner that indicates the user a resource-hungry ad has been taken down.

Google has lately taken some flak over the way it could effectively cripple the most popular ad-blocking extensions for Google Chrome. The search giant has been apparently working hard to weaken the effectiveness of popular ad-blocking extensions. The company, whose major revenue relies on advertising, has been developing a significantly weakened set of APIs that would eventually “cripple ad blockers”. The revised set of APIs for extensions are expected to arrive within the beta test builds of Chrome in July or August. In other words, Chrome users will soon be able to test the first version of the browser that is said to “cripple ad blockers”. Google Chrome relies on Google-designed Chromium core.

Google Working On ‘Heavy Ad Intervention’ Feature

Engineers developing Google Chrome browser, are working on a feature that will unload online ads that are using too many system resources. The new set of instructions would monitor parameters like network bandwidth and CPU processing power. Development on the feature, named “Heavy Ad Intervention” reportedly began last month, noted Google engineer John Delaney in a ‘code commit’ describing the new feature.

“This change introduces a feature that unloads ad iframes that have been detected to use an egregious amount of system resources. 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 current numbers are 4MB network and 60 seconds CPU, but may be changed as more data is available.”

What this essentially means ad iframes or the box of promotional content that runs its own set of instructions and are independent of the website content, will have to fall within the predefined limits of bandwidth and CPU power. If any ads consume more bandwidth and/or CPU power, Chrome will find the ad’s iframe and unload the ad’s content. Chrome engineers have designed a simple notification that interestingly relies on the technology that drives the company’s ‘Safe Browsing’ initiative. In simple words, Google Chrome will display a custom message instead of the resource-intensive ad.

Google Assures ‘Heavy Ad Intervention’ Part Of Bigger Effort To Sanitize Ads

Before Google got entangled in the alleged controversy surrounding the deprecated ad-blocking Manifest V3, Google had developed a built-in ad blocker for Chrome. This might seem rather odd, especially because advertising is a major source of revenue for Google. Still, Google insisted that the in-house developed ad-blocker for Chrome was part of its initiative to exclusively handle ads that it doesn’t consider to be in-line with the Better Ads Standards.

Google appears to be continuing its effort to sanitize ads. The company is clearly experimenting with a new feature for Chrome that merely targets adverts which have been so poorly designed and deployed that they negatively impact the performance of the computer they’re targeting. Currently, the feature is not built-in any main Google Chrome builds. Instead, the feature was discovered in the latest Chromium commit.

While Chrome’s existing ad blocker eliminates the ads for an entire page, the new “heavy ad” blocker specifically only handles the problem ad. As the feature is very much in its infancy, access to the official Chromium bug tracker entry is currently closed to outsiders. In other words, Google is quietly testing the feature behind closed doors. Incidentally, Chrome’s built-in ad blocker is in line with Better Ads Standards. Interestingly, Google is a member of Better Ads Standards initiative.

Is Google Attempting To Pacify Chrome Users And Preventing Mass Transition To Other Popular Web Browsers?

Google has been strongly criticized for allegedly crippling ad-blocking extensions by significantly weakening the APIs these extensions depend on to work effectively. Granted, Google depends on ads for its revenue. Moreover, the company has developed and deployed AdWords and AdSense which are two of the most widely used advertising platforms to deliver paid promotional messages across the internet.

However, one can’t help but think if the ‘Heavy Ad Intervention’ truly is in favor of internet users. The feature, if implemented, will surely target and takedown resource-hungry advertising messages. However, this might also mean it would allow ads that have been designed to consume small amounts of resources to simply pass through. In essence, the feature cannot be considered as an ad-blocker designed by Google for Chrome web browser. At most, the feature could be an advisory for developers who make ads. Developers who build ads that aren’t resource-intensive would ensure their creations are presented to the average internet users. Ad-blocking extensions, on the other hand, still work hard to ensure the majority of the ads are stripped out of the web-pages that users visit.

Incidentally, Google is preparing to enable Chrome’s built-in ad blocker by default in all Chrome instances starting July 9, 2019, which is less than a week away. Moreover, Chrome developers have also designed a security feature that prevents ad iframes from auto-initiating unwanted and potentially malicious downloads. It is obvious that with the new features Google is attempting to strike a balance between web users and advertising since the latter is critical for the survival of several websites.

Alap Naik Desai
A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.

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