by Jim Lynch

iOS 9 inspires lust for ad blockers

Aug 25, 2015

iOS users can't wait to get their hands on ad blockers

In a post back in June, I noted that Ad blocking in iOS 9 won’t kill the Web. Since then I’ve been watching the progress of a couple of ad blockers for iOS 9, and I’ve also been keeping an eye on Apple customer reaction to ad blockers for the mobile Web. And everything I’ve seen so far seems to indicate that iOS users are lusting for ad blockers with a serious passion.

Take, for example, a recent article on The Next Web called iOS 9 content blocking will transform the mobile Web. A writer at the site put the Crystal ad blocker through its paces and came away very impressed by it.

Owen Williams reports for The Next Web:

For Apple, it’s a win-win situation where it can’t really lose. If users block ads, their iPhones will be faster and more stable and publishers will be driven toward platforms where Apple can take a cut of the cash.

What’s clear to me is that ad blocking offers serious, clear advantages to those using iPhones that could create a serious threat for publishers’ ad revenue on mobile, but it’s probably a good thing.

For years they’ve been piling on script after script with little afterthought for those on mobile — ad blocking might finally present them with a reason to care more and work to improve the performance of their sites and offer better alternatives to heavy, slow advertising.

More at The Next Web

Owen’s test results and commentary didn’t surprise me a bit. I use Ghostery and UBlock Origin in Safari on my Macs, and I notice a big difference in terms of browser performance when browsing in iOS on my iPad. In short, some sites are almost unusable without an ad blocker.

iOS users are lusting for ad blockers in iOS 9

Owen’s article spawned a huge thread on the Apple subreddit, with more than 300 posts already in it. And the vast majority of Apple redditors seem to be very much in favor of ad blockers in iOS 9. Here’s a sampling of that thread:

Xe_om: “It’s interesting that it’s called “content blocking” when it’s really the opposite: It’s junk blocking.”

Pancakegod: “Malicious JavaScript is a huge problem and blockers like this are the solution. Advertisers won’t change unless we make them change, and this is what’ll make them do that.”

Mrcrassic: “Pundits keep predicting that these content blockers will lead to more intrusive advertising, but I don’t believe that’s true. A lot of the delay that people experience with ads is due to shitty or bulky Javascript. I feel like that will change before advertising theory will.

Perhaps we might return to the age of static ads? That’s a lot faster than loading JS source files that pull from a zillion different ad mixers, though I might be misunderstanding the problem.”

Guice666: “Oh thank god. Loading pages on mobile was getting frustrating…I would open a site, start reading, only to have the page shift on me due to post-loading of ads. And not just little bottom or top adds, but big ass 1/2 screen sized ads that shift the content completely off screen. Frustrating!”

Docbauies: “This is absolutely the biggest feature i’m looking forward to with iOS 9.”

Beasts: “I just don’t want to be redirected out of my browser to the app store anymore.”

Cormophyte: “People wouldn’t consider ad blocking a major feature if the bulk of the industry hadn’t gone too far in one way or another.

These past few years I find that my mobile browsing woes have shifted from mainly being page render issues caused by whole pages not taking mobile in mind to mainly being advertising-related coding errors. Ads that don’t recognize I’m on a smaller screen, or autoscroll dog-slow and bog the page down, or won’t load fully and obscure the page until I hit an X that doesn’t exist.

They’ve collectively created the consumer will to rid ourselves of their nonsense and now they’re going to have to deal with the loss of revenue. I just hope they haven’t killed the industry by ruining the passive income stream.”

Floobie: “I didn’t know this was a thing. I’m really glad it’s a thing. Just today, I had the Verge up on mobile Safari, and some video ad tried to load. I closed the browser and locked my phone. When I turned on my phone’s screen, the audio “player” controls showed up on top of the normal clock. The source? The stupid video ad that was trying to load on the Verge website.

I use Adblock on my desktop versions of Safari and Chrome. I look forward to doing the same on the mobile end. I’m fine with unobtrusive advertisement, but this kind of stuff and the performance crippling trackers and analytics is obnoxious.”

Rnawky: “Been using content blocking every day since the week of WWDC. Converted Easylist into the new Content Blocker JSON format. Works fantastically. Not only do web pages load faster, but my data usage has dropped too.

Things will get even better once apps begin to adopt SFSafariViewController.”

Soundefect: “I’ve been blocking ads for years on my jailbroken iPhones. I always forget how bad it is on some sites. This has been needed for the masses for a long time.”

More at Reddit

As you can tell from the smattering of comments above, ad blockers are going to be a big hit when iOS 9 is released next month. And that kind of sentiment is not just limited to just one Reddit thread either. I’ve seen similar comments in almost every article about iOS 9 ad blockers I’ve seen on the Web.

iOS 9 ad blockers mean change is coming

As I noted above, the browsing experience right now in iOS is pretty awful compared to OS X since it’s not currently possible to block ads and trackers in mobile Safari. But once iOS 9 is rolled out, with its content blocking features, things are going to change for the better.

Sites that are reasonable with their ads will hopefully be whitelisted by those who value their content. While other sites will be mercilessly blocked by many iOS users.

In the initial phase, ad blockers in iOS 9 will probably cause some serious problems for certain publishers. But ultimately I believe it will be a very positive thing once publishers catch on to which kinds of mobile ads iOS 9 users will tolerate and which kinds they won’t.

Apple is about to school publishers and the advertising industry about the need for reasonable, prudent mobile advertising. The ones that take those lessons to heart will survive and thrive, and the ones that don’t will slowly fade away as the ad blockers in iOS 9 choke off their revenue stream and finally kill them.

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