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Both AdBlock Plus and the media are worried about Safari's upcoming features

By Nathaniel Mott , written on June 11, 2015

From The News Desk

Apple has worried both media pundits and the company behind AdBlock Plus by revealing that iOS 9 will let consumers block ads in Safari.

The media is worried for the same reason as usual: ad revenues are declining, and if users of the second-most popular mobile platform block advertisements, the rate at which this decline occurs will increase and threaten many publishers.

And make no mistake -- many people will probably take advantage of Safari's new features. NiemanLab notes in its report on these features' dangers that AdBlock is the single most popular extension for the desktop version of Safari.

So why is the company behind AdBlock Plus worried about Safari's features? Well, according to a company blog post, it's because they aren't quite sure how the ad-blocking technologies are going to perform in the real World Wide Web.

AdBlock Plus needs to work well for its parent company to make money. Not from its users, of course, but from the companies that want to pay the company to make sure their advertisements aren't blasted into oblivion by the extension.

As I explained after the Financial Times reported on AdBlock Plus' efforts to convince companies to join the "white list" of businesses allowed to show ads:

It’s become a cliche to point out that anyone who doesn’t pay for a product are the products themselves, generating revenue for companies by being forced to consume ads. But it feels especially true in this case, where a company is using consumers’ desire not to see ads to extort other companies.

Put another way: AdBlock Plus was likely never built out of some sense of idealism. That’s rarely true in the tech industry. Instead, it was probably built and offered for free because its creator planned to scare companies into paying to disable the tool. Of course, this means AdBlock Plus users are basically recruited into an unwitting army that allows the extension's parent company to act like a thug. But that seems like a fair trade compared to dealing with obtrusive ads.

A feature that threatens the media industry might actually be the lesser of two evils, so long as it's too inconvenient for AdBlock Plus to work with Safari. At least then companies won't be extorted for the right to display ads that make them a pittance even before the company behind AdBlock Plus gets its cut.

Everyone -- except for the people who get to block at least some of the irksome advertisements shown on the mobile Web -- loses. Now that's a compromise!

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]