Angst is running high in digital media as Google plots a change to its Chrome browser that could cut off certain types of ads. Many in the ecosystem are unsure about what's going to happen and when. They're also asking a surprising question: Who is behind all this?
To review: Google plans a new Chrome browser, coming next year, that will automatically block certain ads, such as video ads that play automatically with sound. Google says it's acting on the recommendation of a cross-industry group called the Coalition for Better Ads, which it says has identified 12 ad types that people find highly annoying. The coalition says publishers and ad-tech companies need to ditch them fast.
The accusation — you could call it a conspiracy theory — that's being leveled by more than one ad-tech executive is that Google is leading the coalition, funding it, and driving its agenda. In other words, they say, Google decided which ads to target and then acted on that unilaterally — blowing up business models along the way — and used the coalition as cover for its decision.
What's the problem if Google makes the experience of surfing the web less annoying for Chrome users? Well, Google also has its own ad-tech business — using algorithms to place ads online and target users — and some of the companies that will be affected by the change to Chrome are its rivals.
Google denies all the conspiracy talk. It doesn't have outsized power over the coalition that recommended the changes, it says. The coalition says the same. Also, plenty of publishers are applauding Google's move to rid the internet of ads that bother people and only encourage ad-blocking software, which hurts business.