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Ad networks promise to do something about the awful adverts you're all blocking, like, real soon

Group promises more secure, less pushy banners

The Interactive Advertising Bureau – a powerful association of ad networks and marketing types that shift the vast majority of online adverts in the US – has finally noticed all the hate aimed at web advertising.

After months and months of malware-laden ads that exploit Adobe's screen-door-of-the-internet Flash, and the creeping use of ad blockers, the IAB's Tech Lab has had a bright idea:

Why not develop a file format and delivery mechanism for ads that are less annoying to users, safer, and hopefully lead many to turn off their ad-blocking tools.

This proposed format is codenamed "lean" – which is, we're told, short for "Light, Encrypted, Ad-choice supported, Non-invasive." That should give you some idea of what's being attempted here – ads over HTTPS that won't track you and aren't annoying. Possibly. The encrypted bit is important because it means the rest of the webpage can be encrypted too over HTTPS, improving people's privacy online.

In announcing the "lean" program, IAB Tech Lab general manager Scott Cunningham said that in the past 10 years, advertisers have made the mistake of making ads too bulky, unwieldy, and, well, absolutely completely dreadful.

"The fast, scalable systems of targeting users with ever-heftier advertisements have slowed down the public internet and drained more than a few batteries. We were so clever and so good at it that we over-engineered the capabilities of the plumbing laid down by, well, ourselves," Cunningham admitted.

"This steamrolled the users, depleted their devices, and tried their patience."

Cunningham noted that with adverts being more invasive, Flash continuing to be a liability, the growing trend of privacy-invading tracking, and load times stalling on ad creative, many netizens have opted to use ad-blocking tools, costing advertisers sales and publishers income.

The details of just what standards will be involved in "lean" have yet to be determined by IAB and its 650-plus members, so we don't know whether the initiative will exclude problem formats such as Adobe Flash. The bureau told El Reg it's still working on the details.

Cunningham did note that the "lean" initiative would not be aimed at replacing all online ads, and in some cases "lean" ads would be able to run alongside other formats.

"Publishers should have the opportunity to provide rich advertising experiences, LEAN advertising experiences, and subscription services," he said. "Or publishers can simply deny their service to users who choose to keep on blocking ads."

Or this could all be a complete waste of time. ®

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