What the new content blockers will mean for you

When Apple launches iOS 9 later this month a long list of new apps and features is introduced. Both deep linking and multitasking features bring new aspects to the user experience. One seemingly small addition that might very well be a game changer in the long run, is the new ability to develop so-called content blocker apps.

Content blockers are a new type of apps that, as the name suggests, are able to block incoming content when surfing the internet with Safari on iPhone or iPad. Basically, Apple now enable developers to create apps that can identify different elements and scripts on a website and then block certain types of content from loading. This way, content blockers are able to block different kinds of ads (banners, video pre-rolls, etc) and tracking scripts that many websites use. Today, many websites have so many banners and tracking scripts that the pages takes significantly longer to load than they actually have to.

What it means for users
The result of using a content blocker can be a significantly faster loading time. According to TheNextWeb ›, who has tested the experimental content blocker Crystal ›, pages are averagely loaded 3.9 times (or up to 10 seconds) faster. That is in itself a noteworthy enhancement. But it is not only ads that can be targeted, also hidden trackers that gather information about users’ online whereabouts can be identified and blocked.
Thus, from a consumer perspective, installing a content blocker might not only result in a significantly faster loading time when browsing, but also provide users with a considerable improvement in terms of protecting one’s privacy by not sharing browsing habits and personal interests with companies with commercial interests. As content provider, though, content blockers pose a substantial challenge and maybe even a threat. The content blocker can basically spoil providers’ opportunities to make money through online (and targeted) advertising. There is also a risk that the blocking of ads and tracking scripts can sometimes result in problems with rendering certain websites so they don’t look right, but Apple has mitigated that potential issue by allowing users to longpress on the refresh button to reload at page without using content-blockers.

What it means for providers
The big question is how this new technology will be addressed by content providers and what consequences it will entail if they gain popularity. Content blockers or not, providers have to earn their money somehow. Providers could try to work around the content blockers, trying to make their ads “unblockable”, or they could simply let all of their content be sponsored. Another option is that content providers will embrace new business models not depending so much on ads and tracking. That could be by requiring users to pay for the content in some way. A fourth option could be for providers to move their content to another platform. Apps, for instance. Apps enable simple ways of payment, and as for now, content blockers cannot block content within an app. As shown below the users only spend 10% of their daily time on mobile phones in mobile web browsers. Embracing the use of apps to release content could be a way for providers to work around the content blockers.

The options are many, and at this moment it is impossible to predict what impact content blockers will have. What we do know is that along with iOS 9, Apple is launching a technology that have the potential to change the foundation of how online content providers think and act in terms of running their businesses. And using apps, instead of websites, to release content could very well be a solution for some.


07 Sep 2015