New app makes websites load faster. But at what cost?

December 11, 2015 by

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As we’ve previously covered, there’s growing debate about the rise of ad blockers and the threat they pose to many websites by starving them of the advertising revenue which funds them. Many people simply don’t understand that all the great free stuff they enjoy on the web has to be paid for by someone – there is no free lunch!

no-free-lunch

Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, has long championed giving consumers more control over how their personal information is collected, used and shared online. No surprise then that the Firefox desktop web browser offers a Do Not Track feature that lets users express a preference not to be tracked by websites.

Now Mozilla has released a free app designed to improve privacy and make web pages load faster on iPhones and iPads. Called Focus, the new app is a plug-in for Safari (Apple’s native browser), and makes webpages load faster by blocking ads.

According to Mozilla, “Focus is a content blocker for Safari that improves the privacy and performance of your mobile web browsing experience by blocking analytics, social and advertising trackers.”

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Focus users can block four types of trackers: ads, analytics, social, and “other.” Mozilla warns that blocking “other content trackers” is the most extreme option of the four, and can result in webpages not loading correctly. For example, it blocks embedded videos in certain webpages.

Unlike other ad blockers, Focus isn’t designed to block all ads. Instead it’s aimed at stopping ad trackers which collect data about web visitors’ browsing habits and then target them with ongoing behavioural advertising (the remarketing ads that follow you around the web). If you install Focus on your iPhone, you’ll still get ads — but only those that don’t track you.

Why should you care?

The rise of ad blocking technology like Focus is not just a growing problem for advertising networks like Facebook and Google. It also impacts advertisers and publishers (the websites that carry ads and earn revenue from them).

Beyond the obvious impact this has on reducing advertising reach and revenues, blocking analytics tracking undermines some of the prime advantages digital marketing has over other mediums — its ability to be tracked and measured.


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