Commentary
9/1/2015
01:05 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary

iOS 9 Ad Blocking Could Alter Internet Commerce

Whether it's a cynical move or not, Apple's upcoming release of iOS 9 can give users the ability to block ads on a mobile browser. This is a serious concern for online advertisers.



10 Handy iPhone Apps Worth Downloading
10 Handy iPhone Apps Worth Downloading
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

As Apple prepares to release iOS 9 -- the company's latest version of its mobile operating system -- later this month to coincide with what many believe is the debut of the iPhone 6s, one feature that is built into the new version of iOS is getting a lot of attention for its disruptive potential to the current economic model of the Internet.

That feature is content blocking for the Safari browser. This brings what has been called "ad blocking" on desktop browsers to the mobile browser. While this behavior is not enabled by default, the new APIs give developers a way to extend the mobile browsers so that they do block content.

Content blocking is more far-reaching than just ads. As Apple notes in the developer library for Safari 9: "Content Blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content."

(Image: Ellica_S/iStockphoto)

(Image: Ellica_S/iStockphoto)

That means that the scripts and tricks that websites use to obtain user information can also be blocked. The tools publishers use, such as Parse.ly or Google Analytics, can also be blocked along with the ads that are served against that data.

Indeed, Apple introduced the "beforeload" routine to the open sourced WebKit used by Chrome. In addition, true blocking that does not even download these resources has been available in Chrome since Version 5 of Google's browser. It's not just for Safari anymore.

Apple has said its goals are to speed up the loading time of Web content on devices. Some have wondered if Apple is simply trying to kneecap Google and others that serve up ads to websites, a business in which it is not involved.

The Apple iAd service only runs within apps. (I'll have more on that in a moment.)

The counter-revolution has already begun.

Ben Barokas is the CEO of Sourcepoint, which helps publishers deal with content blocking. The company provides a platform that "gives users a choice on how they compensate a publisher for their content," Barokas told InformationWeek.

"Users need to opt-in to either advertising or subscription or some combination of the two. We provide the technical platform that gives publishers a way to talk to their users about how they want to compensate the publisher."

[Read why the iPhone is so profitable for Apple.]

Sourcepoint measures ad blocking, and provides information to ad serving systems about what a user will or will not do, according to Barokas. By making an ad look like the content on the site, content blocking can be mitigated by forcing the user to allow the ad or not see any of the site content.

Another way to bypass blocking is to provide content within your own app. Content blocking works within a browser environment as an extension of that browser, but currently does not work inside an app.

Remember where I noted iAd works only within apps? The more cynical among us will realize that Apple's actions will not affect its own business. It will, however, affect almost everyone else’s.

Take that, Google.

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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