Google Chrome's new ad blocker is by no means an altruistic move

At first glance, it sounds like fantastic news: Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Chrome browser, now the world’s most-used browser, will soon block annoying ads automatically.

And what’s the definition of “annoying”? Pop-up ads, auto-play video ads with sound, prestitial ads with countdowns, and large “sticky” ads (that stay on the screen as you scroll). On phones, the forbidden ads also include flashing animated ads, poststitial ads with countdown, and full-screen scrollover ads.

Hurray! Who could possibly object? Advertisers who use those tactics should be silenced, right?

Well, yes. But as Intercept columnist David Dayen notes, there’s a Trojan Horse aspect to all of this. This program is not exactly evil, but it’s certainly no altruistic move by Google.

First, Google has noticed that 26% of desktop users turn on ad blockers. And these block all ads, including Google’s. By providing its own ad blocker (so that we don’t have to), Google ensures that its ads will still get through.

Second, Google plans to create a feature called Funding Choices, where you’ll be allowed to see a site, without advertising, if you pay a few cents per visit. It’s optional, of course—but guess what? Google will get a cut of that.

Finally, although the list of forbidden ad types is quite clear, keep in mind who’s making the decision about what’s permitted: the Coalition for Better Ads. It’s a group led by Google, Facebook, and an assortment of large ad agencies. But it was assembled by Google.

I’m not quite as paranoid as David Dayen; this whole arrangement could be a win for both Google and the surfing public. But he’s right about two things: There’s more to the story than Google’s letting on, and we should keep our eye on it.

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