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Chrome and YouTube will banish ads from the middle of short videos

Cracking down on annoying ads means people block them less, Google says.

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Chrome and YouTube are cracking down on some video ads.

Angela Lang/CNET

Google is putting new restrictions on video ads in its Chrome browser and on YouTube. Chrome will block ads that play in the middle of videos up to 8 minutes long, and YouTube won't show those ads in the first place, Google said in a blog post Wednesday.

It's part of a gradual ad crackdown at Google, which wants to keep people from getting annoyed by the web even as it relies on advertising revenue to fuel its own enormous business. YouTube generated $15 billion in revenue in Google's most recent quarter.

Chrome and YouTube also will stop permitting ads that last more than 31 seconds long if there's no ability to skip them in the first 5 seconds. Chrome will start blocking such ads on Aug. 5. Also banished are ads overlaid on the video that are placed in the middle third of the video or that take up more than 20% of the video's area. The rules are based on the Coalition for Better Ads's latest guidelines, which in turn are based on a survey of 45,000 people in eight countries.

Ads can be distracting, slow down websites, gobble up your monthly mobile data, use up your battery and even deliver malware. As a result, many people install ad-blockers or ad-blocking browsers. Increasingly, though, a concern about ads is how they enable privacy-invading trackers that follow your online behavior.

The video change isn't Chrome's first ad crackdown. Two years ago, Chrome started blocking intrusive ads on websites the company determined used too many. That might have come as a surprise, since Google itself supplies many of those ads to its own and others' websites, but Google seeks to protect Chrome users from the most annoying situations.

Less ad blocking if ads aren't annoying

And there was a silver lining for Google: After Chrome started blocking some ads on the noisiest sites, "we've seen ad blocking rates in North America and Europe drop significantly in Chrome," said Jason James, a Chrome product manager, in the blog post.

Other changes are coming sooner to shield Chrome users. Starting with Chrome 80, released Tuesday, Google's browser starts reining in pop-ups that ask permission to send you notifications. In some circumstances, those pop-ups will be less intrusive.

You'll be able to switch Chrome to the quieter approach yourself, but Chrome will enable it on its own for people who usually block those permission requests and for websites to which very few people grant notification permission, Google said. And Google will gradually use the new interface more in future versions of Chrome.

Cookie-handling changes

Chrome 80 also brings a change to how websites can instruct the browser to store text files called cookies. Cookies are useful for remembering that you're logged into a site, but they also can be used to track you and can open up some security problems. To improve security, Google is changing how Chrome handles a cookie setting called SameSite.

That's caused some problems for developers, though. Google is proceeding with some caution, only releasing the SameSite change "to a small population of users" to start with.

Originally published Feb. 5, 11:32 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:59 a.m. PT: Adds more details about ad blocking and other changes.