Why iOS 9's ad-blocking is bad news for Google

Apple didn't openly declare war on ads at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, but quietly included a new feature in iOS 9 that will dramatically cut down on mobile ads you see.

The company included a tool for developers in the latest version of iOS that supports ad-blocking extensions in Safari. That means you'll be able to install an ad-blocker in the App Store just like you can install ad-blocking extensions in Safari on your Mac.

What this means for you: Mobile ads eat up data that could be used for other, more important activities, like checking your email or streaming music. Being able to block annoying ads, some of which are awful App Store redirects, will be a huge improvement for the Safari browsing experience, saving you money by using less data and time by loading pages faster. Sounds like a win all around, right But the new move is striking fear in the hearts of companies and publishers who rely on you viewing mobile ads to make money.

Google's iOS dependence

iOS already lets you limit advertisers' ability to target ads to you based on a device-specific Advertising Identifier. (You can enable this in Settings > Privacy > Advertising.) But that only affects ad-targeting in iOS apps. Allowing ad-blocking software in a mobile browser will dramatically affect companies who make the bulk of their money from advertising.

Google is a prime example, according to the New York Times. A recent Goldman Sachs estimate found that 75 percent of Google's mobile search ad revenue comes from ads viewed on iOS devices, thanks to a deal where Google pays Apple billions to be the default search engine on iOS. (Users can choose another search engine to default to, but Google is the preselected option.)

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently targeted other tech companies who rely on data mining to successfully monetize their operations. Cook didn't name names, but he was clearly referring to Google, Facebook, and Yahoo, which are all guilty of collecting all of your information and selling it to marketers to better target ads to you.

"You might like these so-called free services, but we don't think they're worth having your email or your search history or now even your family photos data-mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose," he said. "And we think someday, customers will see this for what it is."

Apple's own ad platform

Adding support for ad-blocking in mobile Safari has obvious benefits for people on iOS, but it also might benefit Apple. A Nieman Lab report noted that Apple's News app will rely on iAd, an OS-level ad platform that can't be vanquished or bypassed with ad-block software. Publishers who see declining mobile ad revenue might be persuaded to sign on with News, where Apple will take a 30 percent cut of ads that iAd sells on behalf of the publisher.

That's a cynical take, to be sure, but if mobile ad-blocking improves the user experience and puts a few more dollars on Apple's pile of cash, Cupertino probably won't shed many tears over Google's plight.


Caitlin McGarry

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