An ad blocker just topped the charts on the iTunes store. Here’s why the …

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

An ad blocker just topped the charts on the iTunes store. Here’s why the developer took it down..

For the last two days, Marco Arment has been the envy of the Apple iTunes store. Marco Arment, a programmer who made the Peace adblocking app for iPhones, announced Friday on this blog he has pulled the app which has caused a firestorm in media circles.

The developer of the wildly popular ad blocking app Peace is pulling it from the App Store after just two days because of his new misgivings about the thorough way it blocks ads.Only a day after the launch of Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 9, a number of new applications aimed at blocking ads shot up to the top of the App Store’s charts.Apple made the controversial decision to support ad-blocking apps for mobile browsers in iOS 9, but Peace creator Marco Arment fears that his app might unfairly hurt publishers. “This approach is too blunt, and Ghostery and I have both decided that it doesn’t serve our goals or beliefs well enough.

Unless they’re fine-tuned to allow ads from sites that publish them respectfully and block advertising on those that do not, they can unfairly affect those who rely on advertising to keep a website afloat. One ad blocker called Peace, from Instapaper founder Marco Arment, soon became the No. 1 most popular paid application across the iTunes App Store immediately after its debut. Peace and other ad blockers like Crystal and Purify climbed the ranks after Apple said it would let consumers download tools for iOS 9 to keep ads off mobile Web pages.

If we’re going to effect positive change overall, a more nuanced, complex approach is required than what I can bring in a simple iOS app,” Arment said. “I’m sorry to all of my fans and customers who bought this on my name, expecting it to be supported for longer than two days,” Arment wrote in the blog. Arment had argued that mobile ad blockers are fair game because mobile ads are large and highly disruptive, and that no clear rules exist to govern the amount of user tracking publishers can conduct through the ads. A huge swath of companies, from giants such as Google and Facebook to start-ups and new media organizations, offer their services for free — if users agree to view targeted ads based on their online habits. “It’s simply not worth it,” he wrote in a blog post. “I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to turn away an opportunity like this, and I don’t begrudge anyone else who wants to try it. This app and others like it take advantage of Apple’s new iPhone operating system, which gives developers the ability to make apps that remove ads displayed in the browser. He likens mobile ads to pop-up ads on the desktop, pointing out that pop-up blockers in desktop browsers are widely considered appropriate. “Ad-blocking is a kind of war — a first-world, low-stakes, both-sides-are-fortunate-to-have-this-kind-of-problem war, but a war nonetheless, with damage hitting both sides.

I’m just not built for this business.” Online advertising is part of the fundamental trade off that powers much of the web: Almost everything you do online is tracked by advertisers who fund the “free” services consumers have come to expect — think e-mail, social networks, and access to online news. Though Peace did allow you to whitelist publisher sites if want to see the ads—like Arment’s own—it doesn’t allow you to whitelist specific advertising publishers. But mobile ads face mounting controversy with their use of “tracking” to follow users and lack of clarity over how people’s personal information is shared. I see war in the Tao Te Ching sense: it should be avoided when possible; when that isn’t possible, war should be entered solemnly, not celebrated,” he wrote.

Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit,” the developer wrote on his blog. Take, for example, ads from advertising publisher The Deck that run on Arment’s website. “The Deck is unusually well-behaved for an ad provider: its ads are small, unintrusive, non-animated, and classy, and while it’s loaded by a third-party JavaScript include, it doesn’t set cookies or perform any tracking. Web advertising and behavioral tracking are “out of control”, Arment wrote when he launched the app. “They’re unacceptably creepy, bloated, annoying, and insecure, and they’re getting worse at an alarming pace.” Ad and tracker abuse is an even bigger issue on mobile than on a desktop, he said, where ads are much larger and harder to dismiss, trackers are harder to detect and they slow down page loads, drain battery power and waste cellular data. And a whole slew of other companies have sprung up, serving as sort of middleman between publishers and advertisers who create detailed profiles of users as they travel across the Web, measuring the efficiency of ads, and setting up what amount to real-time auctions for digital ad space. Murphy gave away the app for free to the first 100,000 users to download it, then set a price of $0.99. “The success of it is kind of bittersweet because I love the Internet and I love the websites that are on it,” Murphy told Mashable. “But at the same time, I hate the mobile ads industry…I just find it very intrusive and very hostile.”

And as we all know, they can take over whole screens, putting a layer of frustration between users and the content they actually want to read on the Internet. Privacy advocates worry that users may not understand just how intimately they are being tracked or have a say over what happens with that information in the long-term. And a wave of “malvertising” attacks have used legitimate advertising exchanges to deliver malware to people visiting even some of the most trusted Web sites. Ad blockers can mitigate these problems, but they also turn users into freeloaders — getting goods without “paying” for them with their attention, personal data and, ultimately, ad clicks.

The “implied contract” theory that we’ve agreed to view ads in exchange for free content is void because we can’t review the terms first — as soon as we follow a link, our browsers load, execute, transfer, and track everything embedded by the publisher. If publishers want to offer free content funded by advertising, the burden is on them to choose ad content and methods that their readers will tolerate and respond to. Arment disputes these figures, however, saying that while he doesn’t have today’s sales report yet, that estimate is “almost certainly far too high.” Plus, he points out, he still needs to pay “substantial portions of the revenue to other people,” including Apple, Ghostery, to taxes, a designer, lawyer, and accountant. And everyone is scrambling to grab a piece of the online advertising pie, even though it pays out far less than print ads, because there is an almost infinite amount of ad space.

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