The Killer App Called Peace: How Ad Blockers Are Set to Change the iOS Field

In a post this past Friday titled “Just doesn’t feel good,” software programmer Marco Arment announced on his personal website that he was pulling his top-selling application Peace from Apple’s iOS App Store, just three days after his product’s launch. He offers a link in the post for refunds for customers who paid the $2.99 for the app as the software is no longer supported by updates, though according to Arment the program should still be usable for the next few weeks before the software becomes incompatible. Peace shot to the top of the App Store charts a day after its release due to its offered service of blocking ads listed in a database maintained by another company called Ghostery, but it set off a controversy as the ad blocker was set to damage the advertising capabilities for both large media firms and small companies that depend on ads for revenue. While Peace is officially off the market, other ad blockers, including Ghostery itself, are poised to take advantage of the new Apple iOS software update that allows apps to provide ad blocking software for the first time. The impact of this new development is set to change the way both consumers and software development companies view advertisements in iOS applications.

The concept of ad blocking is not new to the Internet. Ever since advertisers saw the empty space on web pages as prime real estate for generating views for their products, more than a few developers saw the counter-opportunity of capitalizing on the perennial consumer desire of an advertisement-free existence. Online advertisements are often held in the same contempt as their television counterparts by consumers, who are required to view a sponsor’s product so the website or application can continue running free of charge. Internet ads have the additional drawback to the online experience as they add to page load times and can decrease overall system performance. Most no-cost applications in the App Store require ads to support their own existence (unless they offer the option of purchasing additional premium content in the app itself). Ad blockers disrupt this model of doing business, as they are not beholden to any contractual agreement between the app developers and the companies that financially support them. Their existence could potentially discourage any developers making content who were depending on the ad model for their product’s success.

Whoever succeeds in filling the vacuum left by Arment’s app could stand to make a fortune by taking advantage of this consumer desire to remove ads from their daily smartphone use. However, a likely response to this from the market will be increased prices for both paid apps and premium content, and an overall reduction of no-cost apps in the App Store as developers look elsewhere to financially succeed in the online playing field. This would be a losing scenario for both developers and consumers, and points to the moral gray area that ad blocking occupies. Arment spoke to these negative feelings in his post on Friday: “Even though I’m “winning”, I’ve enjoyed none of it. That’s why I’m withdrawing from the market.” It remains to be seen how the successor to Peace’s position at the top will act with this kind of responsibility.

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