Apple vs. Google, a.k.a. the slow death of the web

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simone puorto adblock

You might think the conversation about ad blocking is about the user experience of news, but what we're really talking about is money and power in Silicon Valley.
And titanic battles between large companies with lots of money and power tend to have a lot of collateral damage.

iOS 9 came out yesterday (in fits and starts) and with it, support for content blockers in iOS 9.

Those huge chunks — the ads! — are almost certainly the part you don't want. What you want is the content.
Unfortunately, the ads pay for all that content, an uneasy compromise between the real cost of media production and the prices consumers are willing to pay that has existed since the first human scratched the first antelope on a wall somewhere.
Media has always compromised user experience for advertising: that's why 30-minute sitcoms are really just 22 minutes long.
Media companies put advertising in the path of your attention, and those interruptions are a valuable product. Your attention is a valuable product.

Now, here's the thing about the web, and in particular web ads: the biggest provider of ads on the web is Google.
There's no other company that's managed to monetize the web quite like Google has through the power of DFP and AdX.
But what's happening now is that attention is shifting fast from desktop browsers — where Google's Chrome is dominant — to mobile browsers.
In particular, to Apple's Mobile Safari, which dominates usage statistics on mobile.
The dominance of the iPhone and Mobile Safari give Apple "veto power" over the web.

And with iOS 9 and content blockers, what you're seeing is Apple's attempt to fully drive the knife into Google's revenue platform.

And the collateral damage of that war — of Apple going after Google's revenue platform — is going to include the web, and in particular any small publisher on the web that can't invest in proprietary platform distribution, native advertising, and the type of media wining-and-dining it takes to secure favorable distribution deals on proprietary platforms. It is going to be a bloodbath of independent media.

Taking money and attention away from the web means that the pace of web innovation will slow to a crawl. Innovation tends to follow the money, after all!

Casey Johnston wrote a great piece for The Awl about ad blockers, in which The Awl's publisher noted that "seventy-five to eighty-five percent" of the site's ads could be blocked. What happens to a small company when you take away 75 to 85 percent of its revenue opportunities in the name of user experience? Who's going to make all that content we love so much, and what will it look like if it only makes money on proprietary platforms?

These are the questions worth asking — and they deserve better answers than simply "they'll adapt." Because there's only one thing that makes adaptation such a powerful force.

Death.