Google is allegedly arming its Chrome browser with its own ad blocking feature, stripping certain types of advertising in what’s said to be a bid to improve user experience on mobile and desktop.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the search engine will filter ads that impair user experience as defined by the list of ad standards, released last month by the Coalition for Better Ads. These include pop-ups, autoplaying video ads with sound, and prestitials with countdown timers. The filter could be switched on by default within Chrome.

The move might seem unexpected considering advertising is a key part of the search giant’s business. According to the WSJ, however, the company is aiming to slow down the growth of third-party ad blockers. As it stands, Google bypasses some of these by paying out whitelisting fees, including through Eyeo’s Acceptable Ads programme, the developer of the ubiquitous browser extension Adblock Plus.

Questionable motives

All efforts to ensure good consumer experience are welcome, as long as they don’t hinder publishing, according to consumer experience company Rainbow’s chief revenue officer, James Collier. However, given Google’s own stake in online advertising, Collier added that the industry should be concerned about the company conducting these measures internally.

“To ensure that publishers aren’t ultimately the ones that lose out, the value exchange between user experience and ad revenue is a delicate balance that should really be handled by a third party that doesn’t have a revenue stake of its own,” he commented.

Indeed, there are already concerns that with the ad tech giant losing ad revenue to third-party ad blockers, it will use the move to ramp up its own CPM rates, charging advertisers more to be part of an acceptable ads programme, with one WSJ commenter calling it “not a consumer friendly move at all”.

Apart from blocking individual ads, Google is also considering blocking all advertising on sites that contain “offensive creatives”, in which case website owners would need to ensure every single ad appearing on their web page is above the threshold of acceptable advertising.

The ad blocking trend has seen a rapid ascent in the last few years, becoming online advertisers’ biggest threat globally. In the US alone, eMarketer estimates a quarter of users filter their ads and it expects three in 10 to block ads by the end of 2018.

According to WSJ, Google is still working out details and it’s likely to announce the update within weeks. The company has not yet commented on the story.