Browsing the web can be a maddening experience. You’re often forced to close or sit through advertisement after page blocking advertisement. It seems that the Safari team at Apple agrees. A few years back, they introduced Reader view, a browsing mode that stripped a web page of all but the essential text and images. Now, Safari is gaining another page cleansing capability:
With iOS 9, Apple has added a special case of extension for ad blockers. Apps can now include ‘content blocker’ extensions that define resources (like images and scripts) for Safari to not load. For the first time, this architecture makes ad blockers a real possibility for iOS developers to make and iOS customers to install and use.
As Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton writes, this could be a huge problem for publishers:
Publishers already make tiny dollars on mobile, even as their readers have shifted there in huge numbers. To take one example, The New York Times has more than 50 percent of its digital audience on mobile, but generates only 10 percent of its digital advertising revenue there. Most news outlets aren’t even at that low level.
If iOS users — the majority of mobile web users in the U.S., and disproportionately appealing demographically — can suddenly block all your ads with a simple free download, where is the growth going to come from?
If it does end up being a disaster for publishers, they are hardly blameless. Online advertising has become more and more obnoxious, inviting the use of ad blockers. And why shouldn’t Apple and other browser makers help their customers have a more pleasant browsing experience? They have no obligation to preserve publishers’ current business model.
For the record, I personally don’t use any ad blocker. I’d rather not visit an annoying site than alter it. I also try to run as few browser plugins as possible. You never know what will slow down your computer or mess with the development of a website. However, I can certainly understand why ad blockers are appealing.