Ad blocking fever is not about blocking ads, it’s about getting a better user experience.

Last week was notorious for what happened with Peace — an Ad and Tracker blocker released by Marco Arment in collaboration with Ghostly. Released on Wednesday, it quickly became the #1 paid app on the App Store before it was removed from sale just 36 hours later. Describing his reasons to remove the app, Marco wrote:

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.

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.

In other words, Peace blocked all Ads, “good” and “bad”. And since the decision over which are which would be certainly subjective, and leave many grey areas, Marco pulled Peace from the App Store.

In Search of a Better User Experience

However, I think most of the recent discussions regarding Ad blockers have missed an extremely important point. Many people use these apps to get a better user experience. Here are some numbers from Sarah Perez’s article on Ad Blockers:

Crystal is an upcoming content blocker that’s seen a bit of pre-launch press thanks to creator Dean Murphy’s blog which has been sharing the results of various tests of its effectiveness during beta trials. For example, after testing Crystal against 10 popular websites, Murphy found that pages loaded 3.9x faster on average, and used 53 percent less data.

So, loading a popular website with all ads and trackers turned on took 4 times as long and used twice as much data. That is ridiculous! It means that installing an app can make your cellar connection feel 2–4 times faster. Now take 100 random iPhone users and ask them if they want to increase their data speed by more than twice, I can bet you will get a profound and unanimous “YES!” from all one hundred.

From Ad Blocker to Content Booster

I feel that any Ad Blocker out there should actually be a Content Booster. It should remove everything that slows down the rendering of content too much or uses too much extra data. In this case, good publishers — those who don’t use trackers and use good ad networks — will be rewarded with their ads being seen by real people, while others will be pushed to remove all the crap they have placed around their content.

The algorithm for determining if the web site is “good” or “bad” is very simple — just load a page with all Ads and Trackers blocked and then compare rendering speed and data used against loading the same page normally. Yes, a problem does arise when you need to maintain and constantly update the database of these “good” and “bad” web sites, but there are ways to automate this, and computing time is cheaper than it has ever been.

Another solution would be to test Ad Networks and Trackers, because their number is much more finite. We could see see how their being blocked affects the performance of individual web sites. I think it’s this task that services like Ghostery can solve.

And then, Marco and Ghostery could return to the App Store with a very different, yet familiar, app, Peace — The Faster and Cleaner Way to Experience a Web that Rewards Good Publishers.