Native Ads Unmasked!

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A Google product engineer introduces a browser plug-in that outs native advertising.

Google product engineer Ian Webster has introduced a browser plug-in that could eliminate reader concerns about what's real online editorial and what's sponsored. For native advertisers, the development could eliminate controversy over the marketing method but, at the same time, challenge them to pick up the quality of their content.

AdDetector is available free for installation on Google Chrome or Firefox. While top-flight publishers such as the New York Times and The Atlantic may mark their native ads as sponsored, the disclaimers can be hard to spot. Webster's AdDetector is coded with rules to identify small sponsorship indicators, even those that are hidden in code and not visible. The program outs the native ad with a big red banner across the top of the story saying, “This article is an advertisement sponsored by X.”

AdDetector requires permission to run on pages people visit, but it does not store or transmit their data. Webster is openly soliciting contributions to the open-source plug-in, especially for the addition of rules for sites not covered by AdDetector.

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