Apple has decided to issue refunds to every person who downloaded the popular ad-blocker Peace that was abruptly pulled from the App Store last week after its creator had a change of heart. As it stands, more than 13,000 people have already received refunds for the $3 software after Peace's creator, developer Marco Arment, pulled it amid criticism of the ethics surrounding ad blocking. Arment, who told users to request refunds from Apple because he had no way of issuing them himself, said today that Apple made the decision on his behalf and that the refund process will likely take a few days.
"I’m actually happy — or at least, as happy as someone can be who just made a lot of money on a roller coaster of surprise, guilt, and stress, then lost it all suddenly in a giant, unexpected reset that actually resolves things pretty well," Arment wrote in a blog post. He posted a screenshot of his AppFigures report on Saturday, September 19th indicating that more than 10,000 people had already requested and received refunds. It's unclear how many people in total downloaded the app, and how many customers will now receive refunds. Apple has done this in the past for magazine subscriptions through the App Store if the publication folds, proactively refunding customers for the issues they've paid for but will no longer receive.
An ad blocking rollercoaster comes to an end
Arment watched last week as his app, powered by privacy browser extension maker Ghostery, shot to the top of the paid list on the App Store. The software developer first laid out his ethical defense of ad blocking in August, yet had a crisis of conscience a day after launching Peace. His reasoning? While "they [ad blockers] do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit," Arment wrote. The app should still be usable, but Arment says he has no plans to update it in the future and does not know what, if any, action Apple will take to prevent or allow Peace to remain active.
Lots asking if you’ll still be able to use the app. I honestly have no idea. I’ve never seen this before, and App Store staff isn’t verbose.— Marco Arment (@marcoarment) September 21, 2015
Peace was just one of a handful of new apps that rely on a new content blocking feature in Apple's iOS 9 that lets third-party software blacklist specific domains to increase page load times, improve battery life, and protect users from alleged privacy violations on behalf of advertisers' tracking software. The byproduct of activating this on your iPhone is the removal of all ads in the mobile Safari browser. Arment considered this all-or-nothing approach too blunt for the complex debate around modern web advertising. Yet users appear to love the benefits as competing ad blocking app Crystal currently sits at number one on the App Store, followed not far behind by Purify Blocker at number four.