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“Highly unlikely” would probably be how you’d have responded a year ago to someone telling you two of the largest tech companies in the world — Apple and Google — would both try to fix mobile advertising by blocking ads, but that’s currently the case.
For instance, much has been made of a new feature allowing iPhone and iPad owners to block advertisements in Safari when iOS 9 debuts –with the rationale that it will enhance web browsing. But Google’s recent decision to start penalizing websites featuring app install ads –intrusive ad units that slow page load times and engulf the entire screen — might be a more significant way to improve the browsing experience.
Now, there are some clear benefits to the ad-blocking tool coming in iOS 9. The browsing experience is improved when a website isn’t cluttered with obnoxious advertisements, both because it makes things easier to read and because nixing the ads makes the websites load quicker, as others have already demonstrated.
Blocking those advertisements, however, isn’t a permanent solution. The measure doesn’t help people who never install the utilities Apple will allow onto the App Store, nor does it help those who browse the mobile web from a device that wasn’t “Designed by Apple in California.” That’s where Google comes in.
Google’s search tool is more popular than Apple’s iOS products. ComScore says some 64 percent of searches are run through Google. The iPhone, on the other hand, has 43 percent of the American smartphone market. Any changes to the former are bound to affect more people than any changes made to the latter.
This means Google has a little more power over websites than Apple does. Its decision to punish websites for bombarding people with annoying ads will probably do more than Safari’s new ad-blocking — especially since changes to Google’s search results take effect without any effort on the consumer’s part.
“Most blocking solutions discussed in the media are fairly esoteric and technical, so they won’t be widespread in adoption. Internet users still have to take several steps to enable ad blocking on their browsers or devices,” says PubMatic president Kirk McDonald.” As it always has, advertising will change and adapt — it will get faster, evolve to new formats, gain advancements in measurement and tracking, and find a way to reach the consumer.”
Having to respond to Google’s whims could have more of an effect than ad-blocking for another reason: It encourages websites to serve advertisements that don’t make people want to throw their phones against the wall instead of trying to find ways to sneak their existing advertisements onto people’s phones.
The arrangement also works for website owners that depend on ad revenues, and for Google, which is probably also making money off those advertisements. Consumers are happy, website owners are happy, and Google is happy. The only ones upset by this change should be people who profit off accidental clicks.
Besides, as much as the web’s dependence on advertisements is worrisome — it erodes privacy, compromises user experience, and has other drawbacks — that’s not going to change any time soon. Websites need to serve ads, and anyone who wants to view those sites without paying for the privilege has to accept them.
Provided they want those sites to stick around, that is. Otherwise they can install an ad-blocker (if they use iOS devices) and immediately benefit. Who doesn’t want a better reading experience and faster load times? Unless online businesses find other ways to sustain themselves, though, that’s not going to be a long-term solution. Finding a way to live with ads just might be.