Chrome 85 to erase ads that hog network, CPU resources

The company said only 0.3% of all ads online disproportionately account for a big chunk of total network and CPU consumption

Google last week said that this summer Chrome will remove resource-hogging web advertisements from websites, including ads that mask unauthorized crypto-mining operations.

Arguing that a very small number of online ads - three-tenths of a percentage point of all on the web - disproportionately account for major portions of total network and CPU consumption, Google plans to scrub sites of such ads starting with a Stable build of Chrome near the end of August.

Chrome 85 is scheduled to release on Aug. 25, and would be the most likely version to debut the feature.

"These ads (such as those that mine cryptocurrency, are poorly programmed, or are unoptimized for network usage) can drain battery life, saturate already strained networks, and cost money," Marshall Vale, a Chrome product manager, wrote in a May 14 post to the Chromium blog.

When Chrome detects one of the über-aggressive ads, the browser will unload the content from the ad's frame - the portion of the page in which it's displayed - and refill the space with an error message stating "Ad removed," along with a link to more information.

After copious measurements, Google decided to strip out any ad that consumed 4MB of network data, used the CPU during half of any 30-second span or tallied a total of 60 seconds of CPU usage. Those bars were so high that they affected only 0.3% of all ads, but, Google contended, such ads accounted for 27% of all ad-generated network traffic and 28% of all ad-related CPU usage.

Other browsers have addressed bad actors, including crypto-miners, using different approaches. Mozilla's Firefox, for example, blocks crypto-miners by targeting domains known to harbor such scripts. (Mozilla relies on domain lists produced by Disconnect.) It's not surprising that Google took a metrics-based route here; it typically bases decisions, or says it does, on data collected by Chrome and/or its search engine.

Chrome users can try out this "Heavy Ad" detection and removal prior to version 85 via the chrome://flags option page. Set the Heavy Ad Intervention flag (which also goes by #enable-heavy-ad-intervention) to Enabled and relaunch the browser.

Site developers and ad content creators should use the time between now and late August to test and, if necessary, alter first-party advertisements, Google said. "Our intent with this extended rollout is to give appropriate time for ad creators and tool providers to prepare and incorporate these thresholds into their workflows," said Vale.

Detailed instructions on how to track removed ads using an API as well as how to test the resource usage of ad content were provided in this support document.

This story, "Chrome 85 to erase ads that hog network, CPU resources" was originally published by Computerworld.

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