Information has surfaced regarding a new feature in iOS 9 that brings content blocking extensions to iOS. Based on this information, it appears that iOS developers could write extensions that would allow users to easily block ads when using mobile Safari. For Apple’s part, they don’t describe this new feature as specific to ads. Instead, they refer to it as a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups and other content. Ad blockers aren’t new on the desktop, both for Mac and PC. Their pitch is to remove ads, so you can focus on enjoying the content you want and spend time waiting for it. With traffic decidedly moving to mobile, the introduction of ad-blockers are iOS could severely cripple and in some cases, kill off your favorite websites.
The world is moving to mobile. That’s no real surprise. Changes in iOS 9 like picture in picture and split-screen, only make the iPad Air 2 a more compelling desktop/laptop replacement. To give you an idea of how mobile is dominating, I’d like to share statistics from this site. Yesterday, over 50% of our readers were using a smartphone, 10% were using a tablet and just 39% were on a desktop. We’re at 60% mobile and it continues to move in that direction. For their part, Google is also helping to push sites to design their sites for mobile or face the consequences in the form of less exposure in search engine results. If everyone is going mobile, the importance of being able to generate revenue on those platforms is important to the sustainability of your favorite sites.
People hate ads. I get that. For that matter, I’m not a fan either. As a publisher, I’ve always found it important to strike an appropriate balance between monetization and user experience. There are no pop-overs, pop-unders, contextual ads and we don’t engage in shady tactics design to increase page-views. A typical page will show no more than three ads and none are above the content. This also comes at a time when advertisers are demanding more in the way of road-block type advertising. We’re a text book example of how not to monetize and maximize revenue streams.
Those who make an argument for ad-blocking, justify it by saying it improves your experience. Before we start throwing accolades to Apple for improving the mobile web, I’d suggest you download a few of the top freemium games on the App Store. These epitomize poor user experience. Is Apple providing a solution for users to block iAds and pop-ups in freemium apps? If anything, this move would force websites to transition users to an ad-supported app. But again, who would use that if using mobile Safari is ad-free.
News that Apple may include code that encourages developers to write extensions to block what little revenue streams remain, is nothing short of frightning. Websites rely on ads to pay bills and their employees. Even now, that’s become increasingly difficult. I can’t begin to express just how hard it has become to keep this site sustainable. Some go too far and perhaps that’s the only way to gas up the yacht. Maybe the over-monetization of websites has gotten us here. But users have choices and they just as easily change their browsing habits and visit sites that respect their patronage. If iOS 9 does allow ad-blockers, it may force some sites to become more ad-heavy and some will just go out business. That’s not good for the web or users.