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Apple finds a new way to stick it to Google: Hidden ad-blocking feature found on iOS 9

Published Jun 11th, 2015 7:45PM EDT
iOS 9 Safari Ad-blocking Apps Extensions

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One hidden iOS 9 feature that Apple didn’t detail on stage earlier this week concerns advertising and user tracking. The feature was discovered in Safari mobile developer notes, and it’s got even popular ad-blocker AdBlock Plus worried.

DON’T MISS: iOS 9 is spectacular… and I just uninstalled it

As NiemanLab puts it, this iOS 9 feature might deliver a blow for mobile advertising, as users would have to simply install a Safari add-on from the App Store to block ads, cookies and other content that might appear on a webpage loaded on an iPhone or iPad.

“The new Safari release brings Content Blocking Safari Extensions to iOS. Content Blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content,” Apple writes in its support documents.

With a single move, Apple will practically achieve several goals on different fronts. Ad-blocking will give users a way to better manage their iOS experience when it comes to browsing content and protecting privacy. At the same time, it’ll also deliver a major blow to Google, which is making plenty of money from mobile ads, with most of mobile revenue coming from iPhone and iPad users.

Finally, by blocking ads on Safari, Apple might encourage publishers to sign up for its own iAds advertising platform, which will likely be safe from the iOS 9 Safari ad-blocking extension. And publishers will certainly be the ones that’ll be most hurt assuming a massive number of iOS 9 users start removing ads from websites, so they might consider monetizing their content with help of Apple’s recently unveiled News app and iAds advertising platform.

It’s important to note, however, that the feature won’t be a default Safari option, meaning users won’t be able to activate it without someone coming up with such ad-blocking apps first.

As for AdBlock Plus and its concerns, the company says that Safari 9’s ad-blocking feature might either be good news or the “death knell of ad-blocking on Safari.” AdBlock says that Apple uses an entirely different mechanism on Safari, which might force it to change the way it blocks content on both the mobile and desktop versions of Safari.

It’s unclear whether Safari extensions will block all ads, or will allow certain ads to go through – even AdBlock Plus allows certain ads to go through, which it calls “acceptable ads.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.