At the Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), Apple showcased their new iOS 9. It’s sleeker, it’s more efficient, it’s faster and it’s more powerful than its predecessors. It has new features such as a low power mode, adding public transportation to Maps, and a News app. With Apple’s iPhones becoming more and more like Android, and its continuing second chair in the smartphone market, Apple is beginning to innovate their phones to new heights. One feature, however, wasn’t included in Tim Cook’s presentation and it wasn’t until people got their hands on the documentation that the feature was even found.
iOS 9 will now feature technology that allows ads to be blocked in Safari. Safari is Apple’s default browser for both their mobile and desktop operating systems. The biggest worry with this revelation is the Ad Block official app. Ad Block is the plug-in that swept the internet by storm a few years ago, allowing anyone to block those pesky banner and video ads that have been a common complaint for internet users around the world. It also blocks cookie tracking and other information automatically pulled by websites to sell to advertisers. Typically this information is used to target the user with products that they may want to buy, but the practice has gone from a quaint annoyance, to completely taking advantage of the user and the hardware used to view said ad. For example, certain sites block the content the user wants to see with an ad that may be skippable or can be closed by simple pressing a close button. However, this button is sometimes too small to press without accidently triggering the ad link, causing a quaint annoyance to become a major one.
The inevitable widespread use of ad blocking apps has some companies worried, as the main revenue for most sites is ad based. Although, it’s understandable where such talk is finding a foundation, I can’t help but think these same companies are overreacting a tad bit. For instance, one writer commented that the use of Ad block for iPhone devices can allow users to block necessary paywalls for sites such as The New York Times, which utilizes the paywall to give users a preview to their paper before being asked to buy a subscription. Yes, it is possible to use Ad Block to block cookies that are used for paywalls, but this isn’t in the original design of the software. Unless a user specifically wanted to block paywalls, companies such as The New York Times have nothing to worry about.
Last time I checked, it isn’t inherently the fault of the company if their software is used for illegal purposes. Albeit, the concerns do hold some water, as YouTube partners (people that make money via ads shown on YouTube), discourage using Ad Block as it effects the revenue they earn. It has been estimated that 25% of internet users use Ad block or Ad block Plus to block ads. Apparently, the problem was becoming a nuisance to Google, who makes most of their money based on ads, decided to pay Ad Block Plus to stop blocking ads on their site. Despite online writing outlets such as Wired, complaining about the rampant use of Ad block and its impact on their revenue, I can’t but think that this is the wrong reaction.
When Ad block began to spread, it did so due to the egregious way websites, primarily YouTube, was showing their advertisements. Ad block user, Ian Evans, explains it best when he says:
I first began using Ad Block primarily because of YouTube. Before every movie trailer, every music video, every episode of Crash Course and every 90-second cat video, I had to watch a minute-long advertisement. Sometimes I could click past it after 30 seconds, but increasingly, I couldn’t. Sometimes it was longer than the video itself.
YouTube has gotten much better at their advertising strategy, allowing longer ads to be skipped after 5 seconds, and truncating un-skippable ads to 1 – 2 minutes, depending on the length of the actual video. However, other sites still haven’t learned anything, as they bog their sites down with ads that require more resources, slowing computers, and utilize auto play, which automatically plays a video, with sound, whenever the page is loaded. Some article based sites, expand a short 500 word article multiple pages by separating each page with an ad.
Then, there are the sites that automatically play an animation or a video and expands the ad to cover most of the content whenever the mouse rolls over it. Reasons such as this is causing the use of Ad block to rise. However, the answer isn’t to disallow the iPhone and iPad’s use to ad blocking technology, especially since Android has been doing it for quite some time now and is used by more people worldwide. The answer is a tasteful use of ads.
Gone are the days where pop ups plagued dial up modems, where newspaper sites would take 5-10 minutes to load because of a Flash or Active X ads and the internet was seen as a weird niche followed by some people. Companies need to stop taking advantage of the user by bombarding them with ads. Sites such as Facebook have implemented ads pretty well, as it rolls through your news feed and is displayed on the side, giving you the choice to view it or not. Because as one Wired commenter said on their article, Apple’s support of Ad Blocking May Upend How the Web Works, stated:
[…] when I enable ads, despite the idea that the companies harvesting all my information are doing so in order to make ads for stuff I will actually buy, it’s either for companies I am already aware of and haven’t bought from […] or for stuff I don’t want and will never want.
Where do we go and what do we do from here? Some if not most websites depend on ads from revenue to sustain. Is blocking ads a form on censorship or piracy?