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9/8/2015
07:25 PM
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iOS 9 Brings Ad Blocking To Apple Devices

The Adblock Plus extension has been turned into the Adblock Browser for iOS as Apple's latest mobile operating system embraces content blocking.

10 Apple Slip-Ups That Bruised Its Reputation
10 Apple Slip-Ups That Bruised Its Reputation
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Ad blocking on mobile devices may soon become far more common. As part of its Sept. 9 media event in San Francisco, Apple is expected to announce the imminent availability of iOS 9, with support for content blocking in mobile Safari.

In a preemptive announcement on Sept. 8, Eyeo GmbH said it has turned its Adblock Plus browser extension into a standalone browser for Apple's mobile devices, Adblock Browser for iOS, using technology from Salsita rather than Apple. The company also said that its Adblock Plus Browser for Android is available in Google Play.

For Google, which derives the bulk of its revenue from online ads, and for many online publishers, ad blocking looks like an extinction event. It may turn out to be something less than that as technology and business models adapt. But for the time being, ad blocking is anathema to Google and its advertisers.

[ Building apps for iOS? Read Apple's Swift Programming Language: 10 Fascinating Facts. ]

In 2013, Google removed Eyeo's standalone app, Adblock Plus for Android, because it interfered with ads in other Android apps, a violation of the Google Play Terms of Service. That app, however, can still be obtained directly from its maker and installed because the Android ecosystem, unlike iOS, allows app distribution and installation outside of Google Play.

"In 2013 an app we developed called Adblock Plus for Android was kicked out -- that's why you have to side-load it now," said Ben Williams, communications manager for Eyeo, in an email. "That product was focused on in-app ads; this one is entirely different. It's a browser. We did not negotiate with Google. We simply took it to their App Store and they accepted it this morning."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company isn't entirely at odds with Eyeo – it pays the Adblock Plus maker to whitelist ads through Eyeo's Acceptable Ads Initiative, which prevents ads from being blocked by default (users of the software can write their own blocking rules).

(Image: Eyeo GmbH)

(Image: Eyeo GmbH)

Apple, despite running its own mobile ad business, has come to appreciate privacy, the road kill of advertisers and governments, as a strategic advantage. The company has been at the forefront of the post-Snowden push to make its devices more secure. The security of Apple's iMessage system has led government law enforcement officials to complain that they need a backdoor.

Google has pursued security and privacy too, for the sake of its cloud business. But its commitment to privacy isn't always compatible with its advertising business, as can be seen in the company's recent developer post about how to disable a new privacy feature in iOS 9, App Transport Security. The post explains how to ensure the delivery of ads on iOS 9 devices from networks that haven't yet adopted support for HTTPS. Though Google posted a follow-up note to clarify that it really is committed to security, its privacy technology workaround recalls a similar incident in 2012, when Google circumvented Apple's privacy settings in the desktop and mobile versions of Safari.

With iOS 9, Apple is legitimizing content blocking, a term less incendiary than ad blocking, even as it acknowledges the ad industry's effort to conflate advertising and editorial content through what's known as native advertising. Unfortunately for publishers, Adweek reports that iOS 9's technology affects at least some native and branded content, alongside more obvious ads.

But ad blocking doesn't need legitimacy, despite the outcry among marketers who consider it immoral or thievery. It has been upheld in the courts. It has been demonstrated to save bandwidth and time, to reduce data consumption and page load times, to limit exposure to malicious ads, and to make Web pages more readable.

PageFair, a firm that helps publishers deal with ad blocking, said in its 2015 report that ad blocking increased 41% in the past 12 months, and that it will cost publishers almost $22 billion this year (BuzzFeed argues this number is exaggerated). The firm said there are about 198 million active users of ad blocking technology around the world.

By embracing content blocking, Apple might appear to be advancing its own interest at the expense of the Web, a platform that competes with native apps. Apple's content blocking support in iOS 9 extends only to mobile Safari. Ads in native apps are not affected.

In effect, Apple may be doing to Google what Google did to Microsoft. By making Android free, Google hindered Microsoft's ability to generate revenue by selling Windows Phone licenses. By helping make the Web ad-free, Apple may hinder Google's ability to generate revenue from selling mobile ads. It will potentially undermine its rival as it drives publishers, developers, and iOS users toward its controlled ecosystem of native apps and away from the mobile Web.

If mobile ad blocking on the Web becomes commonplace, content on the Web may end up being far less valuable to users.

10 Apple Slip-Ups That Bruised Its Reputation
10 Apple Slip-Ups That Bruised Its Reputation
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Ad blocking on mobile devices may soon become far more common. As part of its Sept. 9 media event in San Francisco, Apple is expected to announce the imminent availability of iOS 9, with support for content blocking in mobile Safari.

In a preemptive announcement on Sept. 8, Eyeo GmbH said it has turned its Adblock Plus browser extension into a standalone browser for Apple's mobile devices, Adblock Browser for iOS, using technology from Salsita rather than Apple. The company also said that its Adblock Plus Browser for Android is available in Google Play.

For Google, which derives the bulk of its revenue from online ads, and for many online publishers, ad blocking looks like an extinction event. It may turn out to be something less than that as technology and business models adapt. But for the time being, ad blocking is anathema to Google and its advertisers.

[ Building apps for iOS? Read Apple's Swift Programming Language: 10 Fascinating Facts. ]

In 2013, Google removed Eyeo's standalone app, Adblock Plus for Android, because it interfered with ads in other Android apps, a violation of the Google Play Terms of Service. That app, however, can still be obtained directly from its maker and installed because the Android ecosystem, unlike iOS, allows app distribution and installation outside of Google Play.

"In 2013 an app we developed called Adblock Plus for Android was kicked out -- that's why you have to side-load it now," said Ben Williams, communications manager for Eyeo, in an email. "That product was focused on in-app ads; this one is entirely different. It's a browser. We did not negotiate with Google. We simply took it to their App Store and they accepted it this morning."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company isn't entirely at odds with Eyeo – it pays the Adblock Plus maker to whitelist ads through Eyeo's Acceptable Ads Initiative, which prevents ads from being blocked by default (users of the software can write their own blocking rules).

(Image: Eyeo GmbH)

(Image: Eyeo GmbH)

Apple, despite running its own mobile ad business, has come to appreciate privacy, the roadkill of advertisers and governments, as a strategic advantage. The company has been at the forefront of the post-Snowden push to make its devices more secure. The security of Apple's iMessage system has led government law enforcement officials to complain that they need a backdoor.

Google has pursued security and privacy too, for the sake of its cloud business. But its commitment to privacy isn't always compatible with its advertising business, as can be seen in the company's recent developer post about how to disable a new privacy feature in iOS 9, App Transport Security. The post explains how to ensure the delivery of ads on iOS 9 devices from networks that haven't yet adopted support for HTTPS. Though Google posted a follow-up note to clarify that it really is committed to security, its privacy technology workaround recalls a similar incident in 2012, when Google circumvented Apple's privacy settings in the desktop and mobile versions of Safari.

With iOS 9, Apple is legitimizing content blocking, a term less incendiary than ad blocking, even as it acknowledges the ad industry's effort to conflate advertising and editorial content through what's know as native advertising. Unfortunately for publishers, Adweek reports that iOS 9's technology affects at least some native and branded content, alongside more obvious ads.

But ad blocking doesn't need legitimacy, despite the outcry among marketers who consider it immoral or thievery. It has been upheld in the courts. It has been demonstrated to save bandwidth and time, to reduce data consumption and page load times, to limit exposure to malicious ads, and to make Web pages more readable.

PageFair, a firm that helps publishers deal with ad blocking, said in its 2015 report that ad blocking increased 41% in the past 12 months, and that it will cost publishers almost $22 billion this year (BuzzFeed argues this number is exaggerated). The firm said there are about 198 million active users of ad blocking technology around the world.

By embracing content blocking, Apple may appear to be advancing its own interest at the expense of the Web, a platform that competes with native apps and is not owned by anyone. Apple's content blocking support in iOS 9 extends only to mobile Safari. Ads in native apps are not affected.

In effect, Apple may be doing to Google what Google did to Microsoft. By making Android free, Google hindered Microsoft's ability to generate revenue by selling Windows Phone licenses. By helping make the Web ad-free, Apple will likely hinder Google's ability to generate revenue from selling mobile ads. It may be undermining its rival while also driving publishers, developers, and iOS users toward its controlled ecosystem of native apps and away from the mobile Web.

If mobile ad blocking on the Web becomes commonplace, content on the Web may end up being far less valuable to users. While the worst may not happen, Apple may decide that native apps offer a better business model than the Web.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
9/17/2015 | 12:34:35 PM
Readers should not be compelled to view ads
That is generally my view for the same reasons as you can read in today's Fortune articke.

You shouldn't feel bad about using an ad blocker, and here's why


Are readers who only look at one or two sections of a newspaper — and never the ads — stealing that content? Are people who use PVRs to fast-forward through the ads on television committing a theft of some kind? Would it be better if publishers sued readers for not looking at ads?
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