Why are people using ad blockers on mobile?

I released Crystal last Wednesday, a content blocker for iOS 9 that blocks advertising and user tracking in mobile Safari. Since then, It's had an amazing response and hit the top of the App Store charts in 30 countries within a short amount of time. Other content blockers have also stormed the charts worldwide proving there is a huge demand at the moment for these apps.

But why? Well, I held a short survey to people signed up to Crystal's launch newsletter and visitors of the Crystal website,  that received over 800 replies.  (raw results here)

Why Do you want to block Mobile Ads?

A Loss of Focus

This question was to pick the most important reason why you would like to block mobile advertising.

Visual clutter and site load times make up 64% of the poll. They compliment each other perfectly as the more advertising you add to a web page, the more cluttered it becomes, the slower it takes to load and ultimately it'll cause more frustration to the reader. 

I've seen a lot of websites cram so many different ad networks together, which often don't compliment each other and take a strong focus away from the content of the site. Here is a great example from pcmag.com. Any point they tried to make with their article was discredited before the reader has got past the headline.

Privacy concerns makes up a strong 22%. Honouring browser options such as Do Not Track may be beneficial to rebuild the trust between a subset of users and the sites they visit. 

Given the option, how would you like to support your favourite ad-supported sites?

*Allow ads that meet a quality criteria.

Not All Readers Want to Block Ads

When surveying people who wanted to install an adblocker, this was the most surprising result to me.

71% of people who are blocking ads are not actually against advertising in general and are more than happy to allow advertising that meets an acceptable criteria or whitelist a site by site basis. My first planned update to Crystal plans to cater for this majority by introducing a feature to allow Acceptable Ads and a user-managed whitelist. You can read more about that here. 

22% however are willing to pay money to support sites, either to remove advertising or to receive extra content. If you're a publisher, would it be worth losing advert clicks/impressions for ~20% of your readers in exchange for $1-5 a month per user?

6.5% of the voters don't want to support their favourite sites with adviews or money. 

Crystal - FAQ's

I've had a lot of questions about Crystal and Content Blocking in general over the past few weeks. Here's a little post to clear up some info. 

What does Crystal do?

Crystal is a content blocker - It primarily blocks 3rd party adverts and tracking scripts, stuff that runs in the background when you visit sites. It removes irritations such as full screen interstitials with tiny close buttons, popups/popunders, autoplay video, unwanted redirects to the App Store... All the annoyances you have with the modern day web. 

Why would I want Crystal?

A side effect of blocking adverts and tracking is performance. After profiling 10 popular news sites with & without Crystal, I found the pages fully loaded 3.9x times faster on average while using 53% less data. It's tricky to measure, but it's safe to say this has a very positive impact on battery life too! 

Does it work on every website? 

The majority of sites, yes! As I am unable to fully test the whole web, I have built in two great complimentary features. A "Report Site" feature that makes it easy to let me know when a site is showing adverts or not functioning correctly, and a Smart Sync, which allows me to update the blocklist remotely.

What about 3rd Party Apps?

Content blockers only work in Safrai, and any apps that use the new Safari View Controller, such as Twitterrific

Wait, don't websites rely on ad income?! Why are you doing this?

A question I've asked myself on and off the past couple months. Truth is, the mobile web has become a polluted, and this is the first real opportunity to clear it up, for better or worse. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes when you load up websites, this great post by Rob Leathern profiles The New York Post and has some amazing findings. Unfortunately, this practice is quite common within the industry. 

Can Crystal track your browsing habits?

No - Content Blockers on iOS 9 are not able to view this data.

Is Crystal going to be a Universal App? 

Yes - Fully native on iPhone and iPad.

Will there be an OS X Version?

Yes - That is planned. 

What languages will it support? 

English, French, German, Spanish, Danish, Japanese & Chinese (Simplified & Traditional).

When is the release date?

If all goes to plan, it'll release with iOS 9.

Whats your pricing model?

To ensure I can support the app in the long term (I have some great features planned!), and to cover any cloud hosting costs, it will be a premium app. No price is decided yet.

Can I help beta test and/or be notified when its released? 

I've reached the maximum amount of testers I can currently hold until Test Flight is ready for iOS 9 apps. However you can sign up to join the Test Flight beta, I'll be randomly* selecting 1000-2000 people from the list to test when Test Flight is ready. You can also use the form to signup to be notified when Crystal is released. 
*If you were in the first 500 on the list, you're guaranteed a spot!