After iOS 9 launches, Ad blockers top the App Store chart

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Ads are larger and harder to dismiss on mobile, they slow down page loading with JavaScript, that in turn leads to burned battery power, they waste the cellular data that many of us have to pay for on a metered basis – and they can be used to deliver malware, exploits and fraud.

How does this alternative sound: you pay a couple of bucks, in exchange for which developers will give you an app that blocks those adverts.

“For the love of all that is holy, yes, please, take my money,” iPhone users said as soon as they got the chance last week.

With the launch of iOS 9, Apple for the first time enabled mobile users of its Safari browser to download third-party content blocking extensions.

Within hours, ad blockers had shot to the top of Apple’s list of most popular paid iPhone apps.

As of Thursday, the day after the iOS 9 launch, the top paid iOS app was the new ad-blocker Peace, a $2.99 download from Instapaper founder Marco Arment.

Other ad blockers that topped the paid app chart the day after Apple granted them the right to pair up with Safari – at least, at the time when Tech Crunch checked – were Purify Blocker (#3), Crystal (#6), Blockr (#12).

As of Friday afternoon, two ad blockers were still holding strong at the no. 1 (Peace) and no. 2 (Crystal) top spots for paid apps.

However, later that day the creator of Peace pulled the app after saying the success of Peace “just doesn’t feel good”.

As of Monday morning Crystal was at the no.1 spot, with Purify Blocker at no. 3.

Tech Crunch reports that there are a swarm of ad-blocking apps still in development, many poised to arrive soon.

This is all grim stuff for online publishers – at least, that’s the glass-is-half-empty view.

Another way to look at the ad-blocking trend is that this is a golden opportunity for the advertising-run web to reinvent itself.

At any rate, it would seem that something’s got to give.

PageFair and Adobe last month released a report claiming that the number of consumers using ad-blocking software worldwide increased 41% over the previous 12 months, to the current level of 198 million monthly active users.

More data is now out, just in time for the iOS AdBlockapalooza party, this time from the ad-block blocker Sourcepoint and internet analytics company comScore.

Granted, the business model of Sourcepoint – launched by a former Googler in June – is to sell services to businesses that want to fight back against adblockers, and that means it’s in the company’s best interest to paint a bleak scene regarding how much online publishers are suffering or will suffer from people who suck up content while refusing to be force-fed ads.

But it paired up with comScore for the report, which should add some credibility to its findings.

As Business Insider put it, comScore’s analytics are, after all, “the accepted standard for web analytics among digital publishers.”

Some of the report’s findings:

  • Privacy concern = adblocking love. Where online privacy concerns are high, so is ad-blocking. One in ten US users block ads, but that rate shoots up to one in four in Germany and France.
  • Ad blockers are voracious. People who block ads tend to consume, on average, more content than those who don’t. That means, in the online publishing view of the world, even more lost revenue from a higher rate of lost views.
  • The younger the user, the more ad-blocky. Ad blocking skews to Millennials. The highest incidence of ad-blocking was found in 18-24-year-olds, and the next was 25-34-year-olds.
  • The more money they have, the more likely they are to block ads. Ow, that’s gotta hurt the publishers. People with higher incomes – those who tend to attract higher advertising rates – are more likely to have ad blocking software installed. The only exception was in France, where the average income earner blocked ads with as much gusto as the higher income bracket.

Should we feel guilty about depriving sites of their ad revenues?

Nah. This is how Arment sees it:

The "implied contract" theory that we've agreed to view ads in exchange for free content is void because we can't review the terms first - as soon as we follow a link, our browsers load, execute, transfer, and track everything embedded by the publisher.

Our data, battery life, time, and privacy are taken by a blank check with no recourse. It's like ordering from a restaurant menu with no prices, then being forced to pay whatever the restaurant demands at the end of the meal.

What does this new rash of ad-block users portend? More adblock blockers in the escalating blockage war?

New manners of online subscriptions?

Less terrible ads, as Google CEO Larry Page recently mused?

Some kind of menu, as in a more explicit contract, where we can actually see what we’re going to eat before it’s shoved down our throats?

Please do tell us, in the comments section below, what you’d like to see emerge as a replacement for the current advertising model.

Image of Stop ads sign on hand courtesy of Shutterstock.com