September 21, 2015 Last Updated 6:32 am

Developer pulls popular ad blocking app

Peace, developed by Instapaper developer Marco Arment, quickly shot up the charts in the App Store, before being pulled – but other ad blocking apps now dominate the category

To say that ad blocking is on a lot of publisher’s minds would be an understatement (though, to be frank, I know a lot of publishers are still in the dark). The question is just how important will ad blocking become, will consumers really adopt the practice, or only the more tech savvy ones?

One bad sign concerning just how popular ad blocking might become is that several ad blocking apps recently released have shot up the charts. Currently the top paid iPhone app is Crystal – Clock Ads, Browse Faster. Another app, Blockr, is high up the charts, as well. Yet another app, Purify Blocker, was in the top ten, but being priced at $3.99, has been undercut by other ad blocking apps.

Peace-app-icon-300Apparently making ad blocking apps is easy peasy.

One developer, Marco Arment, has had a change of heart. His app, with the long name of Peace: Block Ads and Trackers, Powered by Ghostery, was pulled from the App Store after it shot up the charts and became the #1 paid app (ad blocker apps can be found in the Utilities category). Arment, who was the developer of Instapaper, and was the original publisher of the digital magazine The Magazine, said he didn’t feel good about his app.

“Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have,” Arment wrote on his site. “Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.”

Arment believes his own app was too “blunt”, treating all ads the same.

But Arment certainly understands why web readers like ad blockers, and sees that ad blocking as a kind of war.

“Ad-blocking is a kind of war — a first-world, low-stakes, both-sides-are-fortunate-to-have-this-kind-of-problem war, but a war nonetheless, with damage hitting both sides. I see war in the Tao Te Ching sense: it should be avoided when possible; when that isn’t possible, war should be entered solemnly, not celebrated.”

Arment may have pulled his app, but it clear that there are plenty of developers eager to cash in on the ad blocking craze. Does that mean they will be actually used? If downloaded, I would say yes – why through all the trouble of searching for and installing the app if it isn’t turned on.

We will know more about the impact of ad blocking on the mobile version of Safari in the months ahead. But right now it looks like there is a bit of a demand for the browser add-on and that can’t be good news for publishers.

** I have used the word “app” here because these ad blockers are being sold as apps. In reality, what has happened is that with iOS 9 the mobile version of Safari now accepts extensions. These extensions add features and capabilities to the browser, including some that can block advertising.

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