‘It doesn’t feel good.’ Developer builds Peace ad-blocker, publishes it, then pulls it from Apple App store
The controversy surrounding the use ad blocking apps and plug-ins has reared its head again after the developer of one such application pulled it from the App Store following a “crisis of conscience.”
Marco Arment is perhaps best known as the developer of Instapaper, and was one of the leading developers of Tumblr. But his latest creation, the Peace ad-blocker, seems to have caused him some concerns.
The launch followed the release of iOS 9, which allows developers to release ad-blocking extensions for the Safari web browser in iOS9.
Arment’s Peace ad blocker sold for $2.99 app and was one of the most popular ad-blockers on the App store, competing with others such as Purify and Crystal. But less than 48-hours after releasing it, Arment made the decision to withdraw it.
Arment explained his decision in a blog posting entitled “Just doesn’t feel good”.
“I’ve pulled Peace from the App Store,” he blogged. “I’m sorry to all of my fans and customers who bought this on my name, expecting it to be supported for longer than two days. It’ll keep working for a long time if you already have it, but with no updates.
“As I write this, Peace has been the number one paid app in the US App Store for about 36 hours,” he said. “Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have. 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.
“Peace required that all ads be treated the same – all-or-nothing enforcement for decisions that aren’t black and white,” he wrote. “This approach is too blunt, and Ghostery and I have both decided that it doesn’t serve our goals or beliefs well enough.
“I still believe that ad blockers are necessary today, and I still think Ghostery is the best one, but I’ve learned over the last few crazy days that I don’t feel good making one and being the arbiter of what’s blocked,” he wrote.
Arment recommended that desktop users use Ghostery, and iOS users opt for either Purify or Crystal. He has offered a refund for those who have brought the app.
“I know pulling Peace from the store after just two days is going to be an immensely unpopular move, and subject me to a torrent of unpleasantness,” he concluded. “But that’ll end soon enough, and that’s better than how I’d feel if I kept going.”
The use of ad blockers is proving to be controversial. Earlier this month, the open-source project Adblock Plus returned to the Google Play Store, and officially launched for Apple iOS devices.
Adblock Plus, along with other ad blocking services, had been removed from the Google Play Store in March 2013, with Google citing “interference with another service or product in an unauthorised manner” as the reason.
Eyeo the parent company of AdBlock Plus, had earlier this year successfully defended itself in a German court for the second time, after two German companies said the tool should not be allowed to block ads on websites owned by the plaintiffs.
Essentially, supporters of ad blockers say they allow web pages to load faster, save battery life, and can even prevent malware disguised as ads from infiltrating your device.
In July, a Canadian university study found that using the Adblock Plus browser extension can save between 25 and 40 percent network bandwidth if deployed across an internal enterprise network.
But often adverts are the only way that online publishers can make money.
Meanwhile, Arment’s decision was welcomed by one of his rivals, namely Ben Williams, Head of Operations at Adblock Plus, with a blog posting entitled “Peace out”.
“Marco is an upstanding guy, and as he watched his ad blocker race to the top of the App Store leaderboard, he started to feel uneasy about what he had wrought,” said Williams. “But if you look beyond the media headlines and actually read Marco’s original post, you’ll see that he clearly says, ‘I still believe that ad blockers are necessary today …'”
Williams pointed to Arment’s unease about Peace being too blunt, and he recommended that users should consider the other iOS ad blocker success story Crystal, which is planning on integrating Acceptable Ads and the Adblock Plus whitelist into that app.
Williams also pointed out that Adblock Plus for iOS app is expected to launch any day now, following Apple’s approval.
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