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iOS 9 may allow the creation of ad-blocking software

Blair Hanley Frank | June 15, 2015
One of the staples of desktop web browsing may be coming to iOS with a new feature Apple is adding to Safari with a forthcoming update to its mobile operating system.

It would seem to be bad news for Ghostery, a popular ad blocking extension that makes money by providing advertisers with anonymized information about what sort of tracking it blocked its users from encountering during their browsing sessions.

According to AdBlock Plus developer Sebastian Noack, the new Content Blocking extensions will work very differently from how AdBlock Plus works today, and could prove incredibly useful, but only if the block lists Apple is introducing are powerful enough.

"In short, either this new API will improve Adblock Plus performance on Safari or it will force us to rely upon an inferior blocking format that would essentially kill adblocking on Safari," he wrote.

Unfortunately, the extensions don't even seem to work on the current developer beta of iOS 9, and Apple's documentation at this point is minimal at best. It's hard to say exactly what will come of the functionality.

Allowing any kind of content blocking makes significantly more sense for Apple than it does for the company's largest competitor in the smartphone market. Google makes the overwhelming majority of its money selling advertisements on the web, which means that people who block advertisements cut directly into its business. Apple operates its own iAd network, but those advertisements don't show up in web content, and the company makes most of its money from selling high-end hardware at a profit.

Facilitating ad blockers could make consumers happier with Apple, while also hurting one of its biggest rivals, which would be a win for the iPhone maker. However, the decision would also hurt websites like those run by news organizations that publish their content for free and rely on advertisements to pay for it, along with other free web services that count on ads to make money.

These changes come as Apple seeks to position itself as a protector of users' privacy. CEO Tim Cook said earlier this month that the company doesn't want to make users trade their personal information for free services, which makes sense, since Apple doesn't rely on that information to make money.

 

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