Google Launches Trial Ad-Free Service

Are you fed up with the constant bombardment of online advertising every time you trawl the web?

Well, there may be some good news on that front very shortly as search behemoth, Google, has unveiled a new scheme to let websites collect money from visitors without using online advertising. The trial project, dubbed Contributor, will offer web users the option to pay to visit sites rather than see adverts. Sounds good – in theory, at least, as many users resent the advertising industry’s intrusive activities and its reliance on the collection of personal data. But hasn’t this sort of ideal been trialled before? Well, yes it has: back in 2012 a service called Readability tried something similar, but that quickly sunk without trace. Whether that is the fate awaiting Google remains to be seen.

So how will Contributor work?

Well, users will pay a monthly fee of between $1 and $3; in return they’ll be able to visit ad-free sites, or rather sites with pixelated patterns replacing advertisements. But what about websites: what’s in it for them? Well, websites participating in the scheme will be able to recoup their lost advertisement revenue by collecting part of the monthly subscription fees.

Google only launched the experimental project last week, so understandably relatively few have signed up to the scheme so far. As it stands, Google has signed up 6 partners: Urban Dictionary, The Onion, Science Daily, WikiHow, Mashable and Imgur. Google claims it started with smaller sites just to get a feel for how the service might work on a larger scale. Access to the service is currently by invitation only and interested websites can sign up to be on the waiting list. So far ‘Contributor’ will only replace ads provided by Google with a small thank you message, but the success of the scheme could encourage more sites to trial subscription services instead of advertising.

Why has Google introduced the idea of ad-free web browsing?

Well, it sees Contributor as “an experiment in additional ways to fund the web”, and an alternative way to “directly support the people who create the sites you visit each day.” So is this really Google showing its altruistic caring/sharing side, or are there other more-practical considerations at play here? Well, obviously Google will take a portion of the money raised by subscription fees when users log into the service via their Google account, so it’s not entirely altruistic. But the truth seems to be that Google appears to have made a conscious decision to become less reliant on advertising in the future, and move towards a more stable source of income through paid hardware/services like self-driving cars, glasses and their Amazon-like delivery service.

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