Services & Software

Chrome will whack website bait-and-switch tactics

Starting in 2018, Google's browser will stop website elements that try to send you to a page you didn't expect or want.

Starting next year, Google's Chrome browser will stamp out some shenanigans that send you to a website you didn't expect.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

You probably don't like it when you navigate to a particular web page and then your browser unexpectedly jumps to another page -- an action called a redirect and something the website publisher didn't even want to happen. With Chrome 64, in testing now and due to ship early next year, Chrome will block that kind of bait and switch, Google said.

"We've found that this redirect often comes from third-party content embedded in the page, and the page author didn't intend the redirect to happen at all," Google product manager Ryan Schoen said in a blog post. Chrome 64 will block the redirect action and instead show an information bar telling you what happened.

That's not all. Chrome 65, due a few weeks later, will squelch another unwelcome action that can happen when you click a link and the website opens in a new tab while switching the existing tab to a page you didn't request.

Google doesn't think its changes will be a bother to "well-behaved" websites. "As always, we'll be monitoring bug reports and community feedback carefully," the company said in a statement.

Websites that redirect you to unexpected pages or that open pages you didn't ask for will be blocked starting in early 2018.


The work shows how the technology and conventions that govern the web are a constant work in progress -- and browser makers can exercise unilateral authority in setting those standards. More than a decade ago, pop-up ad blockers arrived, cleaning away some of the clutter that made websites hard to use.

Chrome, the most-used browser according to analytics firms like StatCounter and NetMarketShare, exerts the most power. Google has another big lever, too: It gives better visibility in search results to websites it deems more virtuous, for example by loading fast or working well on phones.

Lots of other restrictions are coming to rein in web developers who browser makers believe are pushing self-interest over a useful web. The new version of Apple's Safari browser stops videos from automatically playing, and Chrome 64 will do so as well in the case of videos with an audio track. Chrome also will block more intrusive ads next year, though it won't stop trackers that monitor how you use the web and stops well short of the Brave browser that blocks all ads by default.

Browsers these days also offer reader modes that strip out complex formatting to try to liberate website text like news articles from distractions.

Chrome in early 2018 will block "trick-to-click" actions in which websites seem to show you a video play button but actually do something different -- like try to install software on your phone.


Early next year, Chrome's pop-up blocker will get another new duty, too, Schoen said: If a site sends a user to an unintended destination, it'll stop that site from opening new windows or tabs in Chrome. That'll squelch some "trick-to-click" situations, where you think you're clicking a video play button but it actually opens a new website.

Website publishers who want to know whether their websites will fall afoul of Chrome's policies can check using Google's new Abusive Experiences Report.

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