As part of Google’s ongoing effort to make ad-ridden websites more bearable, the company is introducing some new protections to Chrome. Over the next couple months, the browser will start blocking various types of annoying, unwanted redirects, where a website or ad suddenly loads a new page, either because it’s been hijacked by a bad ad or because it intentionally wants to force visitors to see one.
Google’s plan to block redirects will roll out in three parts. It’ll first start blocking ads from redirecting visitors to another site when they haven’t been clicked on. When that happens, you’ll instead see a toolbar on the page noting that a redirect has been blocked.
After that, Google will start blocking a type of redirect that acts like a reverse pop-up: instead of clicking and having an ad pop up, the current website will redirect to an ad, while the link you clicked will open in a new tab. Google says this is “effectively a circumvention of Chrome's pop-up blocker” and will begin preventing the original tab from being redirected.
And finally, Google will go after more nefarious websites that open new windows when visitors click on invisible overlays or advertising links that are disguised as buttons, like video playback controls.
The first two changes will come as part of Chrome 64 and 65. Chrome 64 is currently at Google’s “Canary” release stage, meaning it’s pre-beta software. Google says the changes should be released to everyone “in the first few months of 2018.”
The third change will go into effect in January. Google is releasing a tool today called the Abusive Experiences Report that will let developers check to see whether their websites are compliant. If a site isn’t, its developers will have 30 days before Chrome will begin blocking the site from opening new tabs and windows.
Google previously announced plans to add an ad blocker to Chrome early next year, too. Though these new updates aren’t part of that initiative (there’s still no date on when the ad blocker will be released), they serve much the same function, making sure that some of the web’s worst ad offenders don’t frustrate or take advantage of users.
Because of the huge scale of Chrome, Google is in many ways able to unilaterally set and enforce what the web can look like. That’s good when it comes to something like this, where Google is looking out for users’ interests and the safety. But there’s also a real risk to having so much power consolidated within a single company. (Chrome has well over majority market share on both desktop and mobile.)
It’s been the norm for browsers to block pop-ups for well over a decade now, so these new updates aren’t at all unusual or even controversial. They’re legitimately blocking annoying, spammy, and obviously unwanted behaviors, and it’s hard to see another way that these kinds of practices can be stopped at scale. But exactly how Google handles its bigger ad-blocking initiative will be something to watch closely. For that, Google is working with the Coalition for Better Ads, which includes other tech giants and several media groups, so that it won’t be making those decisions entirely on its own.