Yandex bakes ad-blocking into its Russian browser

Yandex has added a native ad-blocking feature to its browser in Russia.

The Russian search giant trailed the change to local press back in December, following new guidelines from the local branch of the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) — which it helped develop.

It says its aim is to enhance users’ browsing experience by blocking “intrusive advertising”.

The filter will not block ads that meet IAB Russia guidelines. And Yandex is providing a diagnostics tool, available on the Yandex.Webmaster service, where it says “publishers and advertisers can check if their advertising is compliant with Yandex standards”.

Users of the Yandex.Browser who update to the latest version will find the ad blocker feature activated by default on both the desktop and mobile versions (though it can be user deactivated in the settings) — preventing “annoying or disruptive ads from loading when a page is displayed”, as the company tells it.

Yandex previously added support for third party ad-blocking extensions to its mobile browser, and a complaint button for mobile users to report bad ads. But baking in ad blocking by default takes things a step further.

“Yandex.Browser now blocks full-screen banner ads, pop-ups with a countdown timer, autoplay video ads and other formats of unwanted advertising, or those that do not comply with new advertising guidelines announced by the Russian branch of the IAB last month,” the company said in a press release announcing the news. “Relevant ads in non-intrusive, organic formats will still be displayed to the user.”

The move prefigures a similar one by search rival Google — which is adding a built in ad blocker to its Chrome browser later this month (also billed as being targeted at overly annoying and/or intrusive ads).

Albeit Google’s move is a pretty controversial one — on account of Mountain View’s dominance of online advertising (its Chrome web browser also beats out rivals in marketshare terms).

Though it’s also true that growing consumer concerns about creepy adtech practices have fueled growth in ad blocking tools for years. And arguably, therefore, Google is just responding to market sentiment and trying to apply pressure on advertisers to stop making ads so horrible that people want to block them.

“At Yandex we believe in building an enjoyable online experience in which people are delivered helpful information. Aggressive advertising interferes with a high-quality user experience and has led to increased ad blocker downloads, which can block potentially useful offers and information to users,” said Dmitry Timko, head of Yandex.Browser, in a statement about the launch. “Native ad blocking eliminates the need for additional ad blockers and promotes better quality advertising.”

A Yandex spokeswoman added that the company intends to expand native ad-blocking to other markets too, though does not have a firm timeline at this point as she said it will depend on the development of local ad standards.

“Currently, our first step is to apply native ad blocking in Russia, where we serve the majority of Yandex Browser users. Moving forward we will implement changes in other markets as new local guidelines for non-intrusive advertising are established,” she told us. “We are currently in active discussions about applying similar native ad blocking filters in CIS states. We will handle the English version of Browser on a case by case basis. According to information we have, IAB Russia works in coordination with IAB Europe, IAB Belarus, and the Coalition for Better ads on research and recommendations.”

Apple has also been attacked by the IAB for baking a tracker blocker feature into its Safari browser. Though the move aligns with the company’s strong pro-privacy consumer stance and a business model that relies on hardware sales and services revenue rather than ad-targeting (as Google and Yandex both do).