Google Will Soon Block Battery-Draining Ads from Loading in Chrome
Did you know that some ads can eat up as much as 79% of your bandwidth and almost all of your CPU resources?
That’s insane, isn’t it? It’s bad enough that you have to navigate a minefield of ads whenever you want to browse through an online store or read a news article. But the fact that an ad can take up more resources than the browser itself, well, that’s a whole new level of annoying – especially if you often rely on mobile data to access the Internet on your smartphone.
In a recent blog post, Chrome’s product manager, Marshall Vale, claims that Google intends to fix this issue it in the near future. How? Through its Heavy Ads Intervention protocol, which is designed to block all battery-draining ads from loading in Chrome. Not sure what this means? Read on to find out the full story.
What Counts as a Battery-Draining Ad?
According to Vale, the team behind Heavy Ads Intervention has taken a good, long look at a significant portion of ads run on Google Chrome. Their goal was to find the right resource caps to target specifically those “egregious ads” that use more bandwidth and CPU than 99.9% of all other ads. Fair enough.
At present, an ad must meet the following criteria to be considered “battery-draining”:
- The user has not interacted with the ad, AND
- The ad uses more than 4MB of network data, OR
- The ad uses the main CPU thread for a continuous 15 seconds during any 30 second period, OR
- The ad uses the main CPU thread for more than a total of 60 seconds.
Basically, if you don’t click on an ad, but it keeps hogging an unreasonable amount of bandwidth and/or CPU resources to run in the background, Google Chrome will remove it for you. You will know when an ad has been removed because you will see the following message in its stead:
Here’s just one example of how Chrome’s new feature could prove useful. With the rise of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies over the past decade, we’ve seen a recent increase in malicious ads that can use the resources on your computer or smartphone to mine coins without your knowledge. These rogue applications are the main target of Google’s Heavy Ads Intervention, but poorly optimized ads are also likely to be removed.
Want to Activate This Feature Early? You Can!
Google has announced that the Heavy Ads Intervention protocol will become default for all Chrome browsers towards the end of August this year. The delay in implementation is Google’s way of giving website owners and ad creators the time they need to optimize their ads, provided that the latter are not created for malicious purposes.
That said, if you have had it with resource-heavy ads and you can’t wait to get rid of them on your smartphone or laptop, then you can activate the feature early. In fact, you can do it right now by opening your Chrome browser and navigating to the following URL:
Next, you have to find the Heavy Ads Intervention tab and click on the button to its right. Set it to Enabled and you’re all set. Just remember that the protocol is still being tested and a number of improvements are likely to be added before it is officially released.
Should You Be Worried If You Use or Create Ads?
It depends. If you run sneaky ads designed to use CPU resources for mining cryptocurrencies, then yes, you might have some reason to worry. If your ads are not malicious, however, it’s highly unlikely that you will be targeted by Google’s new protocol.
Consider that, according to product manager Vale, Google’s Heavy Ads Intervention will only target about 0.3% of all ads that run on Chrome. Surprisingly, this small percentage is responsible for up to 27% of network data used by ads and 28% of ad CPU usage. The discrepancy is staggering, which is the main reason why Google is taking action.
Most website owners won’t even notice the implementation of Heavy Ads Intervention because most ads do not meet the conditions to be considered “battery-draining”. Still, it might be a good idea to test your site prior to the official release of the new protocol.
To perform a quick test, just activate Heavy Ads Intervention on your Chrome browser and navigate to your website as a regular user. If any of your ads are removed, then you know that some optimizations are in order.
If you’re worried about specific ads on your site, you can use the following application: https://heavy-ads.glitch.me/ to test the bandwidth and CPU usage of each. You can also run a Lighthouse check to audit the site’s overall performance.
Does This Mean That Google Can Control the Ads You See as a User?
There have been critics who claimed that Google’s new policy against resource-greedy ads can be used in malicious ways, such as, for example, to remove political messages that do not fit with the company’s views. However, since a clear threshold to identify draining ads is in place, this is highly unlikely to happen.
It’s no secret that Google gets much of its revenue from ads. In fact, some of the company’s most recent moves – such as the initiative dubbed Manifest V3, which restricted modern ad blocking extensions to enterprise users of Chrome – did not look great.
That said, Google is clearly trying to balance its obvious interest in ads with the overall experience that users have with Chrome. The Heavy Ads Intervention comes after the company’s Better Ads Standards project, which saw many abusive ads removed from Chrome.
With more than 60% of the market share for Internet browsers and no real competition, Google has been criticized for making self-interested decisions that have negatively impacted the user in the past. However, the company is making sure that, if you do see ads (and you will), they won’t completely disrupt your browsing experience or bombard you with useless information.