Collateral Damage

Most web users tolerate ads; many web users hate advertising with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. There are many good reasons that users dislike ads (they’re bad for performance, security, and privacy) as well as less universal, more arguable, grievances (e.g. annoyance factor, disagreement about the value exchange for ad-funded services, etc).

Apple, a company that makes ~80%ish of their revenue from iOS-based products, recently announced that iOS 9 will ship with a compelling ad-filtering API for the Safari browser.

In what is surely a huge coincidence, Apple and iOS’s only significant competitor makes ~90%ish of its revenue from advertising.

If you thought that websites’ “Install our app” prompts were annoying before, imagine what’s going to happen when the only way to reliably show ads is via a native app? That “No thanks” link is probably not going to be there, especially when the site detects your ad-blocker (scroll to “Evaluation of Blocking Mechanisms“).

Let’s review:

  • Websites (temporarily) load ~40% faster on iOS? Apple/users win.
  • Websites forced to build native apps to get paid? Apple wins.
  • News sites forced to move to the Apple News app to get paid? Apple wins.
  • Google revenue inexorably forced downward? Apple wins.
  • Ad-funded sites that can’t afford to build a native app? Collateral damage.
  • The open web? Collateral damage.

It’s an utterly brilliant plan.

In the Microsoft anti-trust case, Microsoft was infamously accused of a trying to “cut off Netscape’s air-supply.” This summer, Apple will be quietly putting its hand on Google’s money-spigot.

It’s far from clear how it will end, but collateral damage seems inevitable.

Update: My responses to reactions to this post.

Published by ericlaw

Impatient optimist. Dad. Author/speaker. Created Fiddler & SlickRun. PM @ Microsoft 2001-2012, and 2018-2022, working on Office, IE, and Edge. Now a SWE on Microsoft Defender Web Protection. My words are my own, I do not speak for any other entity.

9 thoughts on “Collateral Damage

  1. Unfortunately, for 95% of websites, I don’t think building native apps is the good way. When users would like to go on a website from time to time, they don’t want to install an app for that.
    I see an alternative where Apple loses: Websites block all or just a part of their content and suggest user to install an other browser.

  2. Ad blockers have been common-place on desktops for years and yet websites still opt to use ads as a source of revenue. For the most part, it’ll only be power users that install them.

    Oh, and if you’re reliant on ads to fund your business on the web, it’s time to revise your business plan.

    1. Ad blockers are common-place, true. But they’re not the default on desktops, and they’re not as prevalent on mobile devices. Apple is adding this to iOS, which is a big deal.

      Ads have been a source of revenue for a lot of really great sites I (and many others) visit. They’re not the _only_ source of revenue, but businesses are still reliant on them for income in some cases. I think your comment is a bit misguided.

  3. Apple should only care about his company and users benefits. And they do so.
    As a user, I am very happy with this announcement.

  4. i don’t think the adblocking will affect google in a significant way. as there are a lot more devices out there than ios devices. and not every ios user will install an adblocker. not every Desktop User (mac os X/windows) installs an adblocker..

  5. Nice Idea on sites blocking safari users in the future, like it!

    Apple have the power to promote ad blocking functionality and make it more mainstream and well known with their marketing. So things could change from only power users to mums and dads too.

  6. In the end, this will be better for the user. Like someone else said, if your whole revenue come from ads, is time to start thinking how to fund your business differently, offering something valuable for the user instead.

  7. I don’t think it is going to make a hole in Google’s pocket. ~80%ish mobile devices/smart phones are not based on ios and don’t have Safari.

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