After a brief scare earlier on Thursday, Microsoft has just given online advertisers a sigh of relief.
The company said Thursday afternoon that it is not building an ad-blocker for Edge, the default web browser of Windows 10 (which, as we now know, is installed on more than 270 millions PCs around the world). Microsoft was forced to come out and say so after ZDNet spotted a PowerPoint slide at the company's Build developer conference suggesting that ad-blocking was coming to the web browser.
"Microsoft is not building a native ad blocker with Microsoft Edge," the company said in a statement. "What you saw is a reference to the work we're already doing in bringing extensions to Microsoft Edge, as mentioned in the latest blog as 3rd party ad blocker support."
Microsoft called the PowerPoint slide "misleading," noting that it's merely building support for third-party extensions into the browser. These extensions can be anything from ad-blockers to cloud-based password managers. Support for third-party extensions in Edge should be available later this year.
Based purely on the number of Windows 10 PCs floating around out there, Microsoft adding native ad-blocking support to Edge would have been a huge development in the ongoing discussion surrounding ad-blocking. Currently, to block ads on most major browsers, including Edge, Chrome, and Firefox, you have to go out of your way to visit the browser's respective store and download an extension like Adblock Plus or uBlock Origin.
The same scenario applies on mobile devices: Anyone want to stop ads from appearing in Safari on their iPhone, for example, must download a dedicated app (called a "content blocker") to do so. These apps debuted last fall alongside iOS 9, and caused the online advertising industry to go into a panic over the thought of millions of iPhone users rebelling against the very mechanism that most sites use to make money. Several startups, including a new browser called Brave, are developing new business models for websites, including giving users the ability to easily donate to their favorite site.
Of course, if internet service providers themselves decide to get into the ad-blocking business, and there are early signs of that happening, online advertisers may have the right to truly panic.