If you haven’t heard, content blockers for Safari are a thing in iOS9, and many in the media aren’t exactly thrilled about it:
— nilay patel (@reckless) September 16, 2015
I get why this is difficult to grok because content just magically appears on the internet but I swear it costs lots of real money to make
— Chris Ziegler (@zpower) August 11, 2015
I don’t know if this will be the Adpocalypse that many are predicting, but after using one for a bit, there’s no question that using content blockers in iOS9 is definiely a way to unsuck the mobile web. It’s a shitty situation, but as a consumer, I don’t know what else to do. Most mobile sites are so bad without a content blocker that I just _don’t go to them. Now, I can actually visit those sites, but I feel a little shitty about it.
The big problem is that this is essentially a one-way street – for those of us frustrated enough to turn on content blockers, we aren’t going to shut them off, even if content providers “learn their lesson” and tone down on mobile ads/tracking/etc.
For what it’s worth, I don’t use any ad blockers on my computer, but that’s because it’s fast enough that I don’t really need them. I do block Flash by default, but come on, of course I do. If you’re using Flash for anything revenue-generating, you’re doing it wrong.
So…yeah. I don’t really know where we go from here. If this becomes a serious problem (and I’m still not entirely convinced it will), I expect we’ll see things like native advertising get even more popular. And maybe that’s okay! I’d rather have the occasional native ad than have a ton of ads and tracking scripts actively ruining my browsing experience.
I feel pity for content providers, but also think that they should’ve been more cautious in building out their platforms. You can’t build a castle on quicksand and not expect it to sink, and it’s hard to imagine that none of them saw this coming. “Our revenue stream relies on making the user’s browsing experience worse in ways that could be actively disabled client-side if people get frustrated enough” doesn’t exactly seem like the world’s most solid business plan. After all, aren’t web publications often the ones criticizing other industries for not adapting to new realities fast enough?
Let’s not forget that all of these ads and tracking scripts have a real-world impact on mobile users, more so than on desktop users – many of us still have data caps, and some tests have shown that content blockers can reduce bandwidth usage by as much as 50%. So it’s not just a user experience/speed thing, it’s a real money-in-my-damn-pocket thing.
I don’t know what the solution is, and I don’t envy the person who has to figure it out, but…this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, and those blaming Apple for it are missing the bigger picture.