Several trade groups representing parties involved in online advertising have sent an open letter to the Coalition for Better Ads (of which they are themselves among the largest members) pushing for faster implementation of self-regulatory moves intended to stave off the threat of browser-based ad blocking. The context here is moves by browser makers – notably Google and Apple – to get tougher on bad ads and cookie-based tracking respectively, both of which threaten the online ad industry. The industry would therefore like to put in place self regulatory measures which have been discussed for some time but not implemented as a way to try to stave off more of this stuff, though the Apple changes have already gone into force and Google’s are likely to do so as well. The online ad industry only has itself to blame for failing to self-regulate sooner and more effectively and thereby maintaining an environment in which such moves by tech companies are deemed necessary. Poor online advertising really serves no-one well in the long term but the industry’s short-termism in allowing it to continue unchecked is now leading to nasty long-term consequences which it is essentially powerless to reverse.
via Marketing Land
At its Build developer conference earlier this year, Microsoft laid out a vision for an ecosystem that would bridge its first party Windows operating system running on PCs and a variety of software experiences running on the two major mobile platforms, iOS and Android. At the time, it wasn’t entirely clear how that would work, and on iOS in particular there are major barriers to third parties providing deep integration. But it was a novel concept, and intended to offer an alternative to Apple’s hardware-based ecosystem lock-in and Google’s software-and-services-layer lockin by combining some of the best of both while offering more neutrality and flexibility.
Today, Microsoft announced two new mobile products intended to further that vision: a version of its Edge browser for iOS and Android, and an Android launcher that builds on an earlier, subtler effort. The Edge browser offers integration with the PC version, in a manner very similar to what Chrome and Safari already offer when used across platforms. The launcher, meanwhile, takes advantage of Android’s flexibility to integrate third party experiences directly into the operating system and offers some clever integrations for hopping between Android and PC experiences. This is the closest Microsoft is going to come in the near term (or probably ever) to having its own platform on mobile again, though of course it’s absent on iOS. Although Apple obviously offers tight integration between Macs and iPhones, the vast majority of the iPhone base doesn’t own a Mac, and many use PCs for work, school, or in their personal lives, so there’s clearly a need here Apple itself hasn’t worked all that hard to meet. That opportunity is likely even larger on Android, where an even higher portion of the base uses a Windows PC. These are early steps, and they certainly don’t execute on the vision Microsoft laid out at Build in its entirety, but it’s a good start.
Google has announced that its Chrome browser will begin either silencing or blocking autoplay videos with the version it currently expects to release in January 2018, echoing Apple’s decision to disable autoplay videos in the latest version of its Safari browser (which also limits retargeting using third party cookies, as I wrote yesterday). That so many websites still run autoplay videos – especially with sound – is egregious, so it’s great to see both of these major browser makers take steps to limit the impact. Both browsers will offer some fairly granular controls on both a general and site by site basis for disabling or silencing autoplay videos. As far as I can tell, Microsoft’s Edge browser doesn’t yet support blocking autoplay in general, while Firefox allows blocking but only through a fairly fiddly process of editing its config file.
There were reports a while back that Google was planning to incorporate some limited ad blocking features into its Chrome browser, and Google has now confirmed those reports and explained exactly what it’s planning. As the reports suggested, Google isn’t planning to implement a broad ad blocker but rather will block just those ads deemed annoying by the Coalition for Better Ads, of which Google is a member. It sounds like Google has started reaching out to publishers to explain the forthcoming change and will be providing detailed guidance on how they can ensure their sites are in compliance. As I said when the earlier reports surfaced, it’s smart for Google to be part of the push for limited ad blockers even if that may seem counterintuitive, because if it can focus that activity on egregious ads rather than all ads indiscriminately, it has a much better shot at protecting its own massive ad revenue than if others take more of a blanket approach. We can be certain that none of Google’s own sites or ad formats will be affected by this filter, but we can also guess that there will be something of an outcry from publishers feeling that Google is favoring itself while disadvantaging others. It’s going to be fascinating to watch this play out over the next few months.