Apple customers complain of apps crashing with latest iPhone, iPad software

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Creator of the top iOS ad blocker feels guilt, pulls app.

The creator of the most popular ad blocker removed it because he felt bad, but others say ad blocking is a rational response to a broken business model If nothing else, Apple’s embrace of ad-blocking software in its latest iOS release has sparked an intense debate about the economics and ethics of digital media, the vast majority of which is supported by advertising. 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. 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.

But developer Marco Arment wrote in his blog on Friday that the app’s runaway success has left him feeling uneasy about the fact that the app indiscriminately blocks all ads. “Peace required that all ads be treated the same — all-or-nothing enforcement for decisions that aren’t black and white. This approach is too blunt,” Arment wrote. “Even though I’m ‘winning,’ I’ve enjoyed none of it,” he said. “Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have.” The app will likely still be available at least until a major iOS update for users who have already downloaded it, though there will be no future updates to the app. Most other ad blockers use public host files, he said at the time, which means they aren’t as well-maintained and are also more heavily focused on visible ads versus invisible trackers. Log in with the Apple ID you use to make purchases, click Apps in the toolbar to filter to just your app purchases, click “Report a Problem” next to your purchase of Peace, and fill out the form.

Prominent Apple blogger John Gruber, for example, complained that ad blockers were blocking even high-quality ads, like the ones he and some other sites offer from an invitation-only ad network called The Deck (although Gruber says he tried to talk Arment out of removing his software from the Apple store). In a piece at The Verge, meanwhile, editor-in-chief Nilay Patel argued that supporting ad blockers like Apple’s could mean the death of valuable independent media outlets who can’t afford to create custom native ads or negotiate with platforms like Apple and Facebook. The explosion in popularity of ad blockers has led to a bitter ethics debate between those who see them as an existential threat to the free Internet and those who are sick of barrages of obnoxious — and sometimes harmful — ads and arrays of trackers that trace their online movements to better target ads. “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,” Arment said.

Veteran blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash continued this thread in a “tweetstorm” on Thursday where he talked about the impact on publishers: Some have made the case that using ad blockers to view content is identical to music or software piracy (my colleague Dan Primack joked in a recent post that he was thinking of robbing an Apple store in retaliation). Their argument is that since publishers make a living through advertising, blocking those ads is unethical, since it robs the site of money it might have made on those ads.

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.” Ad blocking has caused no small amount of controversy since it was revealed at WWDC that iOS 9 would give developers the ability to write Safari extensions that blocked content including ads, videos, and trackers. In fact, Arment noted that Gruber had tweeted his displeasure with ad blockers that block The Deck by default, given that The Deck’s ads are small, unintrusive, and non-animated, Arment said in a blog post explaining the difficult decision to leave The Deck’s blocking on by default in Peace.

Some sites like The Awl and The Verge have been vocal about the need for content providers to get paid—thousands of sites, including Macworld, are supported by the same kinds of advertising that these extensions are designed to block. Any money that goes missing through such behavior is only theoretical revenue in the first place, they say — since the alternative is to not visit the site at all, which also results in zero revenue. It’s worth noting that Arment’s blog post doesn’t come out against ad blocking—in fact, he recommends a couple of other competing iOS blockers, as well as Ghostery’s browser extensions for the desktop, which make it easy to whitelist your favorite sites, or disable trackers one by one.

In a sense, ad blockers are sending a message to these publications, telling them to come up with a better experience (and yes, I agree that we at Fortune could probably do a better job of that too). Just yesterday he went hands-on with several blockers, including Peace, to explain the differences in their approaches and how you can pick the right one for your needs.

Glenn also wrote a very helpful how-to on using blockers to selectively filter the worst offenders, like full-screen popovers, while still allowing the other display ads that help the site in question pay its bills. What Marco Arment’s decision makes clear, however — and the point I think Dash was trying to make in his tweetstorm — is that there are shades of grey in this debate, despite the somewhat strident arguments on either side. Among other things, I think the ad-blocking controversy exposes just how far out of touch with their readers some publishers and media companies have become.

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. One is to see it as users stealing content, but the other is to see that alleged theft as a giant wake-up call about the flawed nature of your business model — a wake-up call the music industry arguably didn’t get for far too long. I collected some of the responses on Twitter to a question about the ethics of ad blocking, a selection that includes people like Marc Andreessen, Anil Dash, Ben Thompson and David Weinberger — it’s embedded below or you can see it at Storify.

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