To Block or Not to Block

Posted: Sep 09, 2015

by John Senall
Principal & Founder, Mobile First Media

Will ad blocking be a short term win, but a long term loss for consumers?

It’s too soon to tell. But in an announcement on Sept. 8, Eyeo GmbH said it has turned its Adblock Plus browser extension into a standalone browser for Apple's mobile devices, Adblock Browser for iOS. The company also said that its Adblock Plus Browser for Android is available in Google Play, according to Thomas Claburn, of InformationWeek.

AdBlock Plus is the biggest company in the space, with more than 400 million downloads and estimated active users of more than 60 million, says CNBC. “The software is free; it makes money by offering companies a certification process to get white-listed so their ads are shown. Then about 10 percent of those certified companies—the larger ones—pay a fee. Google is one of those companies. Its search ads are approved, as AdBlock deems them useful.”

On its face, mobile ad blocking sounds like an idea that consumers should love, said Frank Sinton today in Advertising Age. “In the case of Apple, people can use a good internet browser on their phones and tablets—Safari is by far the most popular mobile browser in the United States—with potentially none of the slowdown in page loading that ads can cause, none of the tracking that vexes some and none of the visual clutter.”

But Sinton says advertising funds some of the most popular web services available. For example, Google funds its search engine, Maps and YouTube services with advertising that comprised almost 90% of the company's revenue in 2014.

A study released earlier this year by research firm PageFair and Adobe shared that the use of ad blocking extensions cost global publishers $11 billion in 2014, said CNBC. The same study expects the cost to hit $21.8 billion in 2015 and $41.4 billion in 2016.

By extension, experts say the whole ad blocking battles may have equal implications for users who enjoy Facebook (which owns Instagram, Paper and Messenger); Twitter (which owns Vine and Periscope); Yahoo (which owns Tumblr); Flipboard; Pinterest; Yelp; and even, to some extent, Microsoft's Bing and Skype.

Consensus is that Apple’s news won’t lead to a fast and total wipeout of the mobile ad industry.

“After all, ad blockers have already been available for those who wanted them,” said Sinton.
For mobile carriers, ads can also be a headache, adds Mike Butcher of Tech Crunch. “The standard app or website can ping an antenna up to 50 times a minute in a process called background signaling. This bandwidth costs real money.”

More smartphone users also use Google's Android operating system than Apple's iOS. So Google has very good reasons to find ways to keep ad blocking in check on Android devices.

Butcher adds, “This is just the latest salvo in what is going to become an increasingly bitter war.”