Ad Blocking On Microsoft Edge
On Windows, the future of web browsing is Microsoft Edge, and Microsoft recently revealed that Edge will soon allow third party ad blocking extensions. But there was some initial confusion about the news.
A presentation at a workshop at Microsoft’s 2016 Build developer conference last week titled “What’s Next for Microsoft’s New Browser”, included a slide that said that the software giant will “build ad blocking features into the browser” in the next release. Unfortunately, the wording of the slide caused many to misinterpret Microsoft’s meaning, and incorrectly report that Microsoft would build in ad blocking to Edge so that the feature would work natively without third-party extensions. This was in spite of the fact that the slide also said that Microsoft plans to “provide a modern extension/plug-in model,” complete with a store, for the next Edge release. Jacob Rossi, a Microsoft representative, later clarified the situation when he said, “We are not building a native ad blocker within MS Edge, but we will support third party ad blockers like AdBlock and AdBlock Plus.”
Microsoft’s Edge browser will offer ad blocking by using third-party extensions. Adblock and Adblock Plus will be supported.
Ad blocking using third-party extensions will be a replacement in Edge for Internet Explorer’s TPL (Tracking Protection Lists), a feature that adds privacy protection into the browser along with ad blocking. TPL were always controversial, in part because at the time they debuted Microsoft had recently purchased aQuantive. That was an unsuccessful attempt to compete with Google in the online advertising business. It turned out to be a disaster and led to a nearly complete writedown of the acquisition and an exit from the business.
Ad blocking has typically been added to browsers through the use of third-party extensions. Microsoft, Mozilla, Google, and Apple have all operated in this way in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome desktop, and Safari respectively. Often, only the more technically knowledgeable user knew about the existence of the various ad blocking extensions and how to install them, while the general user usually used very few extensions, or none at all.
But now ad blocking is getting more attention. In addition to third-party ad blocking extensions for browsers, there have been some browsers that have added ad blocking more natively. Apple has included support for Content Blocking extensions in the newest versions of Safari on mobile devices. In January 2016, Brendan Eich, the former CTO and co-founder of Mozilla, launched a startup called Brave, whose main product is a browser that blocks ads and trackers by default. In March, Opera released a browser update which had native ad blocking as a key feature of the developer edition of its browser, promising it would mean websites would load “up to 90 percent faster.” This promise of faster web browsing, as well as less data consumption and a smaller chance of getting a virus, are the reasons why ad blocking is popular.
But as many have pointed out, while ad blocking is often beneficial for the user, with lower bandwidth, higher security, and higher speed, it’s also detrimental for publishers and websites, which stand to lose a lot of revenue. Some sites that rely on ad revenue are revolting. Sites like Forbes won’t even let you browse without turning off your ad blocker, and in France, multiple news sites have banded together to not allow their use. Google, which derives more than 90 percent of its revenue from online advertising, has, not surprisingly, not included ad blocking in its mobile version of Chrome.
The debate over the future of ads in web publishing, and the ability of the user to block them, will obviously continue, but will have to be conducted quickly if the industry continues heading toward making it easier for the user to add ad blocking features to their browser.
The ad blocking third-party extensions for Edge, AdBlock and AdBlock Plus, were not the only extensions announced at Microsoft’s 2016 Build developer conference. Major services like Pinterest, Amazon, Evernote, LastPass, and Reddit can now plug into Microsoft’s newest browser. This comes a few weeks after an updated version of Edge was released that only supported three extensions. The new extensions announced at Build increase the number slightly, but Edge still lags far behind Chrome, Firefox or even Safari regarding extensions.
It’s good that Microsoft is supporting more extensions, but the company has a long way to go to close the gap with its browser competition. Most users probably don’t use more than a handful of extensions, but those who use them probably won’t switch to Microsoft’s browser without replacements for them.