Safari browser

Apple joins Google in attack on irritating ads

Image credit: Dreamstime

At its developers conference this week, Apple announced that its web browser, Safari, would block autoplay adverts and allow users to disable “ad tracking”, joining Google in a move against disruptive adverts.

The announcement, made at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, appears to signal a move to make the web browser more user friendly.

Apple will prevent videos from autoplaying, which will affect pre-roll adverts on autoplay videos, and could also affect media on Facebook and Instagram. Videos adverts are desirable to advertisers, as they are associated with consistently higher engagement than banner adverts.

Apple will also offer to disable “ad tracking”; this normally uses cookies to track users across different websites. For instance, a user may browse toilet brushes on an online marketplace one day, and the next day notice banner adverts for toilet brushes while reading the news online.

The Internet Advertising Bureau reported in 2016 that nearly a quarter of UK adults use ad blocking software, and it has been suggested that many users make the conscious decision to avoid brands that run disruptive online adverts. Approaches to ad blocking include preventing flash files from loading, and filtering content before it is displayed in the browser.

Beyond preventing irritating adverts from being displayed, this can allow pages to load more quickly, look “cleaner”, lower data use for smartphone users, and sometimes prevent malware infections.

However, many websites rely on advertising revenue to keep running, and some websites – such as Forbes – do not reveal their content to users unless they “whitelist” the site, allowing adverts to be displayed.

Apple’s decision to clamp down on irritating adverts reflects the opinion – shared with Google – that some ads have become too disruptive, and are affecting the user experience.

Other products revealed at Apple’s conference include a smart speaker which could rival Amazon Echo and Google Home, and updated versions of iOS, macOC and the Apple Watch’s watchOS.

Last week, Google announced a new in-browser ad blocker, which will prevent the most disruptive ads – such as those that autoplay, make noises, or cover the full screen – from loading. However, they will allow some adverts agreed to be “acceptable” to load. Google will work in association with the Coalition for Better Ads in order to determine which adverts will still be allowed to appear.

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