Microsoft Browser Patent to deal with irrelevant content

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 4, 2019

Many websites on today's Internet display content that is of no or little interest to visiting users; the content is downloaded, however, and device power and bandwidth is expended to retrieve the data.

Data, such as advertisement, widgets, or social media data, often comes from different servers which delays the display of what is important to the user.

Because of the numerous data sources and rich content of the various items, much time and bandwidth can be required to retrieve all the data prior to rendering a web page.

This translates into increased power consumption and the additional content slows down web page rendering.

Scrolling may result in additional data retrievals from sources next to that.

A recently filed Microsoft patent describes a browser plug-in designed to conserve bandwidth and power by blocking, moving, or redirecting irrelevant content from websites.

microsoft patent plugin block

What is considered interesting and what is not should be decided by the user of the browser according to Microsoft. Users could define interesting and uninteresting items to provide the plugin with the required information to load, block, or delay content.

Microsoft notes that the solution differs from ad-blocking extensions in several key areas. Content blockers block scripts based on rules, for the most part. It is the case, usually, that ad-blockers include a default list when they are installed that is used automatically to block content.

While these lists focus on blocking advertisement, usually, some lists may block other content on sites as well.

Microsoft's solution uses information provided by the user to communicate these to servers which would require that Internet companies implement certain functions on their servers to handle these requests.

The solution is different from reading modes that some browsers support natively or as browser extensions; reading mode modifies web pages so that only the core content, usually an article, is displayed to the user.

Closing Words

Microsoft's patent application describes a browser plug-in that uses information provided by the user to determine if and how content is loaded. While that sounds good on paper on first glance, it would require quite the concentrated effort to get users and content distributors on board.

Additionally, some of it sounds similar to the "pick your interests" options that advertising companies use to determine which advertisement to deliver to users. Microsoft's patent application describes a system that has a broader scope as it is not limited to advertisement.

I cannot see this going anyway, to be honest, though.

Now You: What is your take on the patent application?

Microsoft Browser Patent to deal with irrelevant content
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Microsoft Browser Patent to deal with irrelevant content
A recently filed Microsoft patent describes a browser plug-in designed to conserve bandwidth and power by blocking, moving, or redirecting irrelevant content from websites.
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  1. Netmammal said on February 7, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    But here is the deal, you or businesses you use ARE using somebody’s services for free. You may not like it, but if you use a smartphone GPS apps, they have got to make money somehow. If you go to a website and peruse it for free, that website probably is using Google’s tools to track who arrived there and how. Even for a business, they need to track how you got there, because they are paying Google for adwords. I find it highly unlikely that you do not use some search engine. I also find it unlikely that some of these “free” Duck-Duck-Go-type search services would work if the whole world were using them. Who is paying for their costs?

    We got here because we don’t have a way of paying our own way. Just imagine if there was no such thing as money, and everything you did had to be supported by advertising. For automobiles we’d be driving around in mobile advertising bearing trucks, and eating meat & fruit with advertising stamped into its skin. Life would be miserable, but “free”. Sorta like the internet right?

  2. Netmammal said on February 5, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    This is yet more re-arranging of deck furniture on the decks of the Titanic to fix what is what I consider the Original Sin of the Internet. Because of the pseudo-Libertarian religious philosophy of many of the founders of the internet, Micro-payments were never baked in to the lowest level protocols of TCP/IP. (I say pseudo-Libertarian, because really micro-payments could only work with the financial support of government, but those guys were alergic to that, because government was evil, and mean (aside from funding the intenet dev and causing unix and the Internet to be available to all for nothing)).

    If I were to have to pay 1/100 of a cent for the bytes in every every page load, there would be little advertising. There would be little Spam. There would be very little RoboCalling.
    All of these blights are upon us because the Internet is “free”, which is stupid, because its not.

    Yet almost all users of the internet do not pay based on how many bytes of info they use the internet. Instead we have all of these vague approximations of cost. My ISP charges me on how big a pipe they claim to be giving me, but lets face it, there is no way to measure that, and they do not provide what they claim half the time. Netflix does not have to pay for the backbone network to be built out to take their time-sensitive traffic, and yet they get bent out of shape if the ISP threatens to throttle traffic that is overloading the network for their other users ( and just also happens to compete with their own content.)

    Instead, we now have a network where the majority of the email is spam (luckily its filtered pretty well, or we’d have to dig through it all.) At least on my phone about half the calls arriving now are robocalls. That’s only going to get worse. I can’t tell you how much of your average web page is now advertising on a byte-by-byte basis, partly because I have 5 add-blockers stacked on top of one another, but my my guess is that 1/4 to 1/2 of the web traffic on the internet is advertising or tracking.

    Most users now have been conditioned for 25 year to expect free apps and free web access, so much so that we can not think differently about this, and yet these content providers need to make a living somehow (Like Martin Brinkman— how many or you readers and responders have given him money to support GHacks?)

    We get bent out of shape when Google or Facebook abuses “our” data, when we are not their customers, and pay them nothing for their services. (…Well Microsoft is bad on this account, but they are stuck competing with Google’s Android and Chromebook, what do you expect?)

    We are doomed.

    1. John Fenderson said on February 6, 2019 at 6:21 pm

      @Netmammal: “We get bent out of shape when Google or Facebook abuses “our” data, when we are not their customers, and pay them nothing for their services.”

      I get bent out of shape because these companies collect and use my data even though I don’t use their services at all. It is not possible to avoid this without almost completely disengaging with society (including not using debit/credit cards, and avoiding entering many retail establishments).

      If I’m not giving consent to having my data collected, then I’m being spied on.

  3. Steve#99 said on February 5, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Dear Microsoft,

    Welcome to the 21rst century…

    Except for the relocate and possibly the modify link, most of these features are in ublock origin, umatrix, and even AB+. ublock is far superior because it respects user privacy and never has ulterior motives, never. ublock also has powerful features such as user activated logging, regex filters, a privacy policy a child could understand, the ability to export your settings & filters, and so on.

    And, who is going to trust MS with its “report back” to web server “feature”? What privacy oriented person or greed oriented corporation/site in their right mind is going to trust MS internet tech in areas of censorship, privacy, reliability, and stability? To add to this MS extension’s instant eminent failure (similar to that of MS Edge), Microsoft is one of the worse offenders and houses some of the most broken sites on the internet. Go unto a Microsoft site and you’ll connect to 35 different domains featuring the most short lived, useless thing on the internet: a Microsoft link, born today broken tomorrow.

    As far as dynamic/adaptive blocking, with ublock if you see something on a site you don’t like? Right click on that page element and choose “Block element” and thanks to ublock, you’ll never see it again.

    Or, add filters proactively. Go to ublock’s “My Filters” tab and add things like this..


    Or add filters like this and facebook will not know your machine exists…


    MS should focus on getting Windows to work in a reliable fashion, which respects user wishes/privacy and leave the internet to privacy oriented, competent human beings like Ray Hill.

  4. gwacks said on February 5, 2019 at 6:48 am

    “I cannot see this going anyway, to be honest, though. What is your take on the patent application?”

    Thought: It’s very time for us to build our own parallel universe, which needn’t be exactly the same as Adblock Plus.

    Sign. M$ Sunshine

  5. AnorKnee Merce said on February 5, 2019 at 5:35 am

    M$’s Win 10 is actually the biggest expender of users’ device power and bandwidth. Also, M$’s Win 10 does not give user-choice, ie forced auto-updates/upgrades and Telemetry & Data collection.

    Talk about hypocrites.! M$ should instead patent a plugin to block the Win 10 “malware” from all computers.*sarcasm*

  6. Yuliya said on February 4, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Microsoft announces to switch Edge to Blink and V8 (aka Chromium).
    Google announces a feature which breaks content blockers (among other extension types).
    Microsoft announces some kind of content filtering for their browser.

    Hmm… All good things come to an end? But all good things have a beginning as well. And let’s hope they keep their promise and release it for Windows 7 and not make a hash out of it (as in Windows 10 ads plastered all over it, or an UI which would be inadequate for Windows 7).

    1. Anonymous said on February 5, 2019 at 12:20 am

      Why would anyone who decides to keep Windows 7 and not “update” to what you said “Windows 10 ads plastered all over it” would want another Microsoft service promotion spyware? There are already many chromium browsers that work on Windows 7 and definitely respect user’s privacy more than Microsoft. Keep Windows 7 for privacy reasons and for avoiding ads and at the same time use Edge, a Microsoft service promotion spyware? Paradox…

      1. Yuliya said on February 5, 2019 at 8:40 am

        If it turns out to be a good browser, why not? If Chromium turns out to break stuff like uBlockOrigin and uMatrix in the near future, do you have a better suggestion?

      2. Anonymous said on February 6, 2019 at 2:45 pm

        Basilik, Waterfox, Firefox. If you must use chromium, vivaldi or brave. So many options, why bother with microsoft’s promotion spyware? An edge chromium fork has no real purpose apart from having a default browser in windows 10 that promotes our service spyware instead of google’s.

  7. Henk said on February 4, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Correction to my previous comment mentioning Proxomitron: when I said “basic http syntax” of course I meant “basic html syntax”… And in fact, if you also wanted to modify incoming javascripts with your own filtering rules, the rule-setting required a little knowledge of basic javascript syntax as well.

  8. Henk said on February 4, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Theoretically, the best way to block unwanted content would be not by some kind of extension (which might be reporting home) but a purely local front-end solution under full control of (and fully programmable by) the user.

    In the days before the rise of https, such a solution did exist. Until about 2005, I used it myself. It was the Proxomitron software, a very flexible “local proxy” (1990s software) which, using all kinds of rules and lists, could act as an extremely well customizable and really effective filter between one’s browser and the outside world.

    I used this not just as an ad filter, but also as a content filter that was fully tuned to my own preferences. For example, because I’m not interested at all in anything related to sports (be it football, tennis, cycling, skying, whatever) I had Proxomitron programmed to present me all news sites without anything related to sports. Likewise, on tech sites or in software listings, I left out all items that wouldn’t interest me anyway: if I didn’t want blog front pages cluttered with news about new printers or about the latest Apple hardware, I got them with such items left out. And of course you could change everything (like unwanted ugly page backgrounds, whatever) to anything else at will. It offered unlimited possibilities! Of course you had to fine-tune your filtering rules (and keep re-tuning them from time to time) but if you knew your basic http syntax, then it all really worked like a charm.

    Unfortunately, the rising dominance of https websites threw a spanner in this wheel. Https means an encrypted datastream, which by definition is not suited very well for intermediate filtering by a program like Proxomitron…. So any modern alternative would require some kind of decrypting phase before the actual filtering, which might be hard to implement when while passing on the filtered data, the browser is still expecting to receive the encrypted content.

    Should a developer succeed in re-introducing some modern well-working alternative to Proxomitron, I as a user would immediately be willing to pay a few hundred euros for that. Because to me, that would mean regaining much better (and purely individual) content control. All power to the user!

    1. John Fenderson said on February 5, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      Ugh, I hit submit too soon for the second time this morning!

      @Henk: “Unfortunately, the rising dominance of https websites threw a spanner in this wheel.”

      Not really. HTTPS is not a big problem to work around for these systems. You just set them up as a man-in-the-middle, so the HTTPS connection your browser makes is actually to the proxy software and the proxy software sets up its own different HTTPS connection with the site. That way, the proxy can see all of the traffic, but it remains properly encrypted for everyone else. Squid can do this, and Privoxy probably can as well (but I don’t know for sure).

    2. John Fenderson said on February 5, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      @Henk: “In the days before the rise of https, such a solution did exist.”

      Such solutions still exist. Proxomitron may be gone, but Squid can do the job (although it may not be as user-friendly, it’s also much more powerful). A more user-friendly alternative that I know exists and have heard people recommend (but I have not used it myself and so I can’t recommend for or against) is Privoxy.

  9. Tom Hawack said on February 4, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    “Microsoft’s solution uses information provided by the user to communicate these to servers which would require that Internet companies implement certain functions on their servers to handle these requests.”

    This means that Internet companies would take into consideration users’ preferences to block or delay their very content, when we know that the immense majority of companies already don’t honor the ‘Do Not Track’ feature?

    Nice to start the day with a big laugh.

    Moreover on the Web as in life an individual becomes specific when he points out his preferences or when these are determined and integrated in his profile, eternal work in progress and contribute to what we are all fond of because it makes us feel important : tracking.

    In other words, a worthy concept, utopian unless correlated tracking appears to bring more to companies than what they’d lose with filtering their content on the basis of users’ choices.

    Once again vice disguised in virtue.

  10. BlinkBoy said on February 4, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    So MS is patenting Decentraleyes and similar software tech?

  11. Anonymous said on February 4, 2019 at 9:40 am

    This looks like merely a voluntary tracking plugin mainly to the benefit of advertisers.

    “The list of identifiers can also contain other user configured entries such as city, state, country, address, age, gender, annual income, marital status, language, education, professional group affiliations, access to social networking sites like Facebook and/or LinkedIn profiles etc.”

    Alas I’m sure they’ll find some people gullible enough to give them those personal data voluntarily…

  12. lux said on February 4, 2019 at 8:50 am

    How will they stop it from blocking their own servers?

  13. Graham said on February 4, 2019 at 8:34 am

    Said “irrelevant content,” of course, would be the download button for another browser.

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