google gaslighting 

I'm really getting quite tired of Google gaslighting people about the direction Chrome is going in the past years.

"You're hysterical if you abscribe any monopolistic intent to these changes! This is _clearly_ being done for security reasons! Those extensions are risky! Performance is a concern!"

Meanwhile Alphabet directly mentions the risk from ad-blockers to their revenue in their SEC filings.

It's one thing to be monopolistic and another to gaslight people about it.

google gaslighting 

There are way too many conspiracy theories online and unfair accusations.

"Big corporation engages in monopolistic practices to make money" is not one of them.

google gaslighting 

I especially hate the subtype of this gaslighting, the deliberate fuzziness.

Any criticism is met with "those changes are still under development/discussion, stop assuming a bad outcome!" but without ever committing to any clear and easy goals like "all ad-blocking extensions will continue to work as before".

It allows Google to float plans and see the amount of pushback. If little, they can just bulldoze ahead. If a lot, they can pretend to have arrived at a mild version.

google gaslighting 

So when Google backtracks on something due to outrage, then they turn around a few months later and ask, "what was the big deal? Why were you crying wolf? we said all along that those were changes under development!"

This is gaslighting and absolutely is a strategy to keep pushing Chrome in the direction that's favourable for Google.

It's throwing changes against a wall and seeing what sticks and what distinguishes it from true experimentation is how one-sided it is.

google gaslighting 

If we zoom out to the big picture, everyone, literally EVERYONE in the infosec community knows that ads are a huge security, privacy and performance risk, to the point that if you're an enterprise security person it's actively negligent not to roll out ad-blockers to corporate desktops.

Google has one of the best security teams in the world, they know this.

The bottom line is that ad-blocking would be something core Chrome provides under reasonable risk analysis.

google gaslighting 

Google is an ad company so they won't do this, but it's worth acknowledging this explicitly instead of just accepting it as a given.

That still leaves ad-blockers as extensions. Removing ads via extensions brings tremendous security and performance benefits. When Google is talking about the performance impact of extensions, this doesn't get factored in, especially in the context of those "rule caps". Why is it reasonable to have 30-50k rule caps at all?

google gaslighting 

Surely, extension performance should be looked at not just by how much time/resources those extensions take to run, but the benefits they provide!

If an extension installs a million rules, but still comes out as a net benefit overall, then what's the point of a rule cap? So why do we accept the framing that there has to be a "to be determined" rule cap in the first place?

The browser should only give users information to make informed choices about extension performance.

google as a public company 

Some people claim it's a conspiracy that Google would do these changes to benefit themselves.

Google is a massive, publicly traded company. Ads are 90%+ of overall Alphabet revenues. They are one of the biggest names in data analysis and statistics on the planet.

Ad-blockers are a business risk. This means there is a business risk mitigation plan in Google to quantify and mitigate this risk.

Quantify: they have troves of info on everything related to ads and blocking

google as a public company 

They probably have extremely precise data on who is using ad blockers, done multiple studies on WHY, identified different subgroups of those users and basically figured out everything about the subject. Every single company who has billions of dollars riding on this would have done the same. Exact percentages with dashboards monitoring the KPIs related to ad blocking.

Mitigate: Google makes money from ads and wants to keep delivering ads to people.

google as a public company 

Why do you think Chrome was built in the first place? Their business risk planning told them that they are in a better position if they control the channel (the browser) of ad delivery. Noone spends literal billions creating a browser just for fun. Control is Chrome's raison d'etre.

So, mitigating ad-blockers: Google must have known that forbidding ad-blockers directly wouldn't fly, a.) for anti-competitive legal reasons b.) the public uproar.

google as a public company 

There is probably a lengthy memo or multiple in Google setting out their strategy concerning ad-blockers and it's probably emphasizing containment and minimalization.

Containment, as in: raising the friction of using an ad-blocker. Things like the messy installation of an extension to block ads. The 20 different ad-blockers, from which 15-16 made a deal with Google to whitelist them.

They just need to keep ad-blocking at a low percentage of users, not 0%.

google as a public company 

Minimalization is like the anti-abortionist strategy: not banning it outright just making it inacessible by imposing more and more requirements on access.

"Oh no, ad-blockers are supported! Here is a list of hoops you have to jump through to use one: <insert long list>."

Maybe in 5-10 years there will be a lawsuit and during legal discovery some of these memos, internal deliberations and so on will become public. It's almost inconceivable that they wouldn't exist.

google as a public company 

Part of that business planning to protect the revenue stream is having a communications strategy, both internal and external.

Google realised a few years ago that they do need to communicate internally in an effective way aswell, after the Dragonfly/China stories, the walkouts and related concerns.

Or, to flip this on it's head if the "ad-blocking" topic would just be about some engineers trying to fix "performance", do you think...

google as a public company 

...Google PR wouldn't come down like a ton of bricks on those engineers and product managers for generating so much bad press?


google as a public company 

Some people are saying that you can still block Google ads even after the proposed changes.

That's missing the point though, which is that Chrome is taking power away from extensions. Ad vendors would be silly to take advantage of those restrictions immediately to work around ad-blockers.

No, it'll be a few months after the restrictions get adapted that suddenly Ad companies start to structure their ad delivery in a way that makes it painful to block.

google as a public company 

Oh, your extension requires an update every time you want to update your blocklist now?

We'll change uris every day or two.

Oh you're restricted from more complex blocking logic? We'll shard ads over a complex pattern now.

Things won't break completely, it's just ad blocking will be a lot less effective in a fairly hard to summarize/explain way.

google as a public company 

The face of Google engineers when they realize that their upper and middle management know how to play politics and sell initiatives with messages tailored to the audience.

thread FIN.

Re: google gaslighting 

@szbalint they're waiting out for news to settle down and it's so obvious that it infuriates me.

google as a public company 

Thanks for the post, a lot of the technical details had escaped me.

As a side note, at least one of the original reasons for Chrome browser was speed. Google had controlled studies indicating people browsed the web longer (viewed more ads) when pages appeared more quickly. Of course this supports your argument - they built it to foster more ad views.

google as a public company 

@szbalint It'd've certainly help Google that Apple pioneered this ad blocking approach in the name of performance. Though there they didn't drop the old API for extensions that needed it.

google as a public company 

@alcinnz oh I forgot to mention that in the thread!

It's a very common tactic to say "look, what we're doing here exists [in part] elsewhere!", with the "in part" being the unsaid part.

Google's approach becomes really problematic in combination: this is exactly what Apple doesn't have and they do.

(Sidenote Hungarian govt used the same argumentation when they rewrote the constitution: "other countries have these bits too" - but none had all or most of the bad stuff)

google as a public company 

@szbalint I'm sorting what are you saying "is exactly what Apple doesn't have and they do"? Ads?

google as a public company 

@alcinnz What I mean is that Apple did the declarative syntax of the ad blocking because they had to make the ad-blockers app-store installable, and compartmentalized from Safari. It was a privilege-separation and privacy-preserving tradeoff. Google doesn't have ad-blockers on Android in Chrome.

I'm unclear on what if any limits Apple puts on ad-blockers beyond a declarative syntax though. The difference is in platforms and implementation, not just in intent.

google as a public company 

@szbalint I don't know how Google's alternative compares, on the desktop there's still the old API so no constraint there.

As for "content blockers" the isolation does mean you can't do arbitrary computation, instead leaving you to match by URL (by regex), domain, and resource type.

google as a public company 

@szbalint well, that and IE was pretty shit. I think they just fund Mozilla because they owe them basically their existence as Microsoft would have killed it off.

google as a public company 

@szbalint Google’s business model is to display ads on web. Google developing a market dominating web browser was just to get control of their business-critical platform. Now that Chrome is practically ubiquitous they can start to leverage the control they’ve gained.

google gaslighting 

@szbalint From a computer science mindset, that's cap would indicate subpar optimization.

It's not about how many items you have or how fast your computer is. It's about how much work you do per item.

In this case if they were so concerned they could make performance only dependent on the number of characters in the URI, and less on how many rules you have.

re: google gaslighting 


Research has been done on this.

In one study, ad blockers reduced page load times significantly. But let's try to use a slightly more favorable metric for Google:

Here's a different study that only measured time added, not time saved. The median added request latency in this study was less than a millisecond for every ad blocker they tested.

You want to save time loading a page? Drop an analytics script. Boom, that's probably at least 100ms if not more that you've reduced your page load time by.

re: google gaslighting 

@szbalint If there were to be an effective campaign to get lots of people installing ad blockers then this is something which really could dent the bottom line of the likes of Google. It's an Achilles heel for them. Ads cause security problems and increasingly consume bandwidth and slow down page load times.

This is why they're trying to head off any attempt at such a campaign.

@szbalint Could you please blog this or post without CWs.

Generally: DO NOT CW nontriggering shit. It massively curtails reach.

@szbalint Please do. And feel free to brush it up/re-edit, I'm not looking for a slavish reproduction. You make many excellent points.

@dredmorbius @szbalint if i can suggest a counterpoint, this was a very lengthy and involved read that, if it had not been put behind cws, i might have scrolled past entirely due to its length (and have been more annoyed at the significant amount of scrolling it took). i'm grateful that there was a summary and an opt-in to read this.

(also "google gaslighting" is a hell of a hook as far as cws go)

@carcinopithecus As I've already told Balint; I follow him, and have him on my high-priority list, specifically because I'm interested in seeing what he has to say. If I'm *not* interested in reading someone, I unfollow (or down-prioritise them to a lower list).

I did someone livetooting an event with a bunch of short and noninformative posts a month or two back that _that_ was annoying. They can do that if they want, but it'll cost them followers.


@carcinopithecus I'd trade a thousand shitposters for another Balint.

Mostly what annoys me is that people who are GOOD at writing on topics, and who bring and generate enthusiasm for them, feel for some reason they've got to hide behind CWs.


Haeters gunna haet. Let 'em block you, or block preemptively.

But that shit you've got feeling for/ Preach it!


google gaslighting 

@szbalint i feel like one lingering effect of the failed 90s MS antitrust action was every big company realizing it needs to become adept at carefully constructing plausible deniability to weasel around any accusations of monopolist tactics.

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