Developer Marco Arment this week released a new ad-blocking app for iOS, taking advantage of content-blocking features in Apple's latest mobile operating system. The app, called Peace, is available from the App Store for $2.99 and has already shot up to the number one slot for paid apps in the US.
Peace uses a blocklist compiled by Ghostery, covering 2,000 ad and tracker URLs. According to Arment, that makes it faster and less battery-intensive than other ad blockers, which rely on publicly compiled "hosts" databases. Other apps also tend to focus on the most visible ads, ignoring tracking scripts, and their databases are often managed by a small group of volunteers, limiting the scope of the content they block. Arment notes that the "privacy-focused" app will not collect any personal data, either, as iOS content blockers can only provide a list of blocking conditions for users.
"It’s like ordering from a restaurant menu with no prices."
There's been much debate surrounding the ethics of ad blocking, fueled in part by Apple's new WebKit Content Blocker API, which allows developers to block ads in Safari. Arment, who created the ad-free Instapaper app and an ill-fated subscription magazine, stakes his position clearly.
"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," he wrote in a blog post announcing the launch of Peace. "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."
the irony of charging for an ad blocker is too much for me I might die overnight see you later— matt (@mattbuchanan) September 17, 2015
Others, like Awl editor Matt Buchanan, have been quick to point out that Arment is charging money for an app that, effectively, takes away ad revenue from publishers — money required to create the free content that readers crave.