Apple added support for ad blocking software on iPhones and iPads a few weeks ago. Brian X. Chen wrote a piece in the New York Times about testing ad blocking software on his iPhone to see if websites loaded faster and if his battery lasted longer.
Websites did indeed load faster. And his battery lasted longer. But Chen also considered the economic repercussions of ad blocking software.
“Using the blockers is easy: You download one of the programs from the App Store and then set your Safari web browser to enable the blocking,” writes Chen. “Ads are choked off inside the browser when you load mobile websites, but the blockers do not stop ads from appearing in apps.”
What are the advantages of using ad blockers? “The advantages of ad blocking seem obvious,” writes Chen. “Not only can consumers eliminate the clutter of promotions, but eradicating data-intensive ads could help deliver faster web page load times and longer battery lives for devices.”
But the downside is that most publishers are funded by advertising. Blocking advertising makes it harder, especially for smaller publishers, to create the content that populates the Internet. And if we lose smaller publishers, we lose the diversity that makes the Internet great.
Chen argues that ad blocking software might push publishers to create sleeker, less-data-hungry ads. If the ads on a site make it load much slower, than the publisher isn’t working hard enough to make their user experience a smooth one.
Another option that users of ad blocking software have is to create a “whitelist” of websites where the software allows the ads through the filter. Do you want to support certain websites but not others? Then you can whitelist the ones whose advertising you’d like to see.
How prevalent is the use of ad blocking? According to 2014 study by Adobe and PageFair, there are about 144 million active ad blocking software (the software they were looking at is called AdBlock and it works with Chrome) users around the world. And AdBlock usage grew by nearly 70% between June 2013 and June 2014.