Following Apple’s footsteps and tapping into the ad blocking software trend, Samsung Android-powered phones now allow users to install ad-blocker extensions on the smartphhone’s default browser. Users will have to decide to flip the switch in the settings to start blocking ads and the new feature is only available for Android Lollipop or higher users, according to a BBC report.
Apple came out with ad blockers on the iPhone in September, igniting a debate in the advertising industry. Clearly, if too many people block ads, the main funding model for Internet content will be in jeopardy. Publishers rely on ad revenue for paying staff to produce content, which can then be offered free to readers.
Yet the trend continues. App makers like Adblock Browser have launched software to block ads on smartphones, while Adblock Plus, a desktop browser extension, lets users surf the Web without seeing ads. And Brave, a new browser developed by Mozilla co-founder Bendan Eich, blocks ads by default, replacing those blocked ads with its own anonymous ads that supposedly don't invade user privacy.
Why Ad Blockers Won't Fix the Problem
Samsung could not immediately be reached for comment, but Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insight for the Local Search Association, told us he believes Samsung is going down the ad blocking road for one reason: to emulate Apple. That reason is on par with many other aspects of Samsung's smartphone strategy.
"More broadly, however, ad blocking is an issue that the industry as a whole is going to have to address in a thoughtful and meaningful way," Sterling said. "Considering ad blocking as illegal or unethical isn't going to help. Addressing the root causes -- the malware, low-quality ads, and page load times, is what's required."
Indeed, Eich, who recently launched the Brave browser, said users don't want to pay for web content. And based on experience, most Internet publishers agree.
Online ads are the natural solution to fund free content on the Internet -- just as TV commercials enable viewers to watch their favorite television programs. The bottom line is that killing ads will also kill off content.
The Numbers Tell the Story
Indeed, the ad blocking trend is not only a threat for publishers and advertisers, but also the billions of users who currently have access to free content on the web.
According to Pagefair’s 2015 Ad Blocking Report, there are now 198 million consumers who tap into ad blocking software in the world. Ad blocking grew 41 percent between June 2014 and June 2015 globally, and grew 48 percent in the US. to reach 45 million active smartphone users in that same period. All told, ad blocking cost publishers nearly $22 billion in 2015.
"Although a large portion of online browsing is performed from mobile devices, mobile ad blocking is still very underdeveloped," the report reads. "The release of iOS 9 in the Fall of 2015 may be a game changer, as it will allow users to easily install ad blocking from the App Store.”
It's a game changer in the sense that Android is now following suit. Consumers can download ad blocking software for Windows Phone, but so far Microsoft’s mobile operating system does not come with ad blocking built in. Currently, 40 percent of mobile ad blocking comes from Firefox users who installed extensions.
"Mobile Safari represents 52% of the mobile browsing market and 14% of total web browsing,” the report reads. "With support for ad block apps in iOS 9, we expect ad blocking on mobile Safari to trend towards the levels seen in the mobile version of Firefox."