One of the features in iOS 9, Apple’s latest software update for iPhones, iPads, and the iPod touch, allows you to block ads while browsing webpages in Safari.
But to do so, you need to have an iPhone 6 or newer, and download what the company calls a “content blocker.” Several apps that offer this functionality are already receiving a lot of attention and have shot straight to the top of the App Store’s charts.
On Thursday morning, less than a day after Apple released iOS 9 to the public, a content blocking app called Peace, which costs $US2.99, was the top paid app in the App Store.
These apps, so-called “ad blockers,” are controversial because many news websites rely on advertising revenue. A lot of content online is free because it’s supported by ads.
The apps have ignited passionate debate on both sides. While proponents of ad blocking argue that it improves the experience of reading articles on the web by allowing pages to load faster and saving people mobile data, opponents argue that it’s stealing and will undermine publishers’ efforts to pay for their content.
Marco Arment, the developer behind the ad blocker Peace, explained on his blog his reasoning behind making the app. “Web advertising and behavioural tracking are out of control,” he writes. “They’re unacceptably creepy, bloated, annoying, and insecure, and they’re getting worse at an alarming pace.”
Dean Murphy, the developer behind Crystal, which blocks ads in Apple’s Safari browser and costs $US0.99 to download, recently published a speed comparison of websites that were loaded with and without his iPhone app installed.
“On average, pages loaded 3.9x faster with Crystal and used 53% less bandwidth,” said Murphy. “Just by having Crystal installed, I saved a total of 70 seconds and 35MB of data on these 10 pages.”
But Casey Johnston, a freelance journalist, argues that ad blocking threatens independent media.
“If ad-blocking becomes ubiquitous,” she wrote on The Awl this week, “it will be devastating for publications who derive much or all of their revenue from advertising — which comprises most of the professional publications on the internet.”
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