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Adblock Plus cries foul over Apple plan to stop ads

The developer of Adblock Plus has cried foul over new features in Apple’s next update for its mobile operating system that could come equipped with ad-blocking built-in.

The update for iOS 9 used on the iPhone and iPad and the Safari web browser was announced at Apple’s developer conference on Monday.

It will bring with it a collection of new features aimed at speeding up the iPhone and Mac’s operating systems and extend battery life. One of those features appears to be the ability to natively block web content, including ads.

The features built into Safari and iOS 9 were discovered as part of the developer preview builds of OS X El Capitan and iOS 9 released this week. But according to Adblock Plus, the new feature could render the extension redundant.

“So far very little is known about content blocking extensions, available in Safari 9 and iOS 9,” said Adblock Plus head of operations Ben Williams from developer Eyeo. “We look nervously at how powerful their block lists will be.”

A built-in ability to block unwanted content, including ads, seems like a good thing for users. It is less appealling for Adblock Plus – a business built on blocking some ads but allowing others through from sites that pay for the privilege of being on its “whitelist”.

‘End of adblocking on Safari’

Adblock Plus recently released a browser for Android dedicated to blocking ads, and intends to release an iPhone version, which would be rendered useless should Apple provide an ad-blocking system baked into iOS 9 and mobile Safari.

“The best case is that the new application programming interface will help us to improve the performance and adblocking experience on Safari, and paves the way for an iOS adblocker. If [Apple’s] block list format turns out to be useless, however, that could mean the end of adblocking on Safari,” said Williams.

Apple has not said whether its content blocking system will be used for preventing adverts within browsers. The company runs an advertising service called iAds within applications that run on iPhones and iPads and is unlikely to adopt a system that could damage its own revenue stream.

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For publishers the ability to block adverts on mobile devices threatens a captive market for supporting their content through advertising. While the blocking of ads is common on the desktop, it is not on mobile browsers meaning that users viewing websites, including the Guardian, are guaranteed to be served any adverts that are planned by the publisher.

Ad blocking threatens the chosen revenue model for the majority of web publishers. German broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat1 recently lost court action against Eyeo over Adblock Plus.

The court ruled that Adblock Plus’s estimated 50m users did not put it in a dominant position of the market and therefore it was in breach of anti-competitive laws.


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