Content Blocking Safari Extensions Coming In iOS 9

Announced at WWDC as a part of iOS 9, Apple revealed the new "Content Blocking Safari Extensions". If you're unsure of why you would want to do this, look no further than the image example that Apple uses:

Essentially this would allow built-in ad blocking within Mobile Safari on iOS for the first time. And as, you would expect, all the usual suspects are screaming bloody murder about this new feature:

The potential impact of “Content Blocking Safari Extensions” even goes beyond blocked ads. Apple is explicitly allowing the blocking of cookies on a site-by-site basis. For example, you could build an extension that blocked the cookies that allow a newspaper paywall to work. The Yourtown Times allows you 10 stories free a month? It’s probably using a cookie to keep track of that count. Block that cookie and the paywall comes tumbling down — you’re a fresh visitor every time. Imagine being able to download an extension that blocked paywall cookies on the top 50 paid news sites. It wouldn’t even be particularly hard to code; unless Apple chooses to prevent it, someone will do it. News sites would be able to build workarounds — changing cookie IDs regularly, requiring user login from article 1 — but winning that sort of cat-and-mouse game is something publishers are unlikely to be good at.

Why would Apple do this?

An Apple partisan might argue it just wants to give users control of their iPhone experience, and having debuted extensions in the last version of iOS, allowing them to alter web content is a natural next step.

Apple partisan? Clearly you get an idea of where this guy's bread is buttered from. Partisan? How about any normal, rational, sane person.

A friend of mine, Brian Vargas, tweeted this today:

I'm sympathetic to those who use advertising to earn their living. Sites like Daring Fireball, The Loop, or Six Colors that use limited, tasteful, audience relevant ads that aren't user and content hostile -- those are great. I specifically set my AdBlock software on my desktop to not run when visiting their domains.

But when I don't run AdBlock software, my typical browsing experience looks something like this:

The user cannot even see the first line of the article for all of the ads they have to scroll through first. Why do they even bother laying our or designing their web pages? Why not just display 2 or 3 ads first to make you scroll through before you arrive at the headline and article? The effect would be the same.

That publishers allow their content to be prostituted to this atrociously vile degree completely washes away any guilt I have about using AdBlock software on their sites. If they continue to treat my time and attention wish such distain and disrespect, I'll continue to care about them not being able to show me ads in the same way.

Live with Phil

Marco Arment has done a wonderful job at explaining why it was such a big deal, and completely awesome thing to do on Apple's part, by having Phil Schiller guest on The Talk Show, live from WWDC. You should go read Marco's well written thoughts about the event as I completely agree with what he said and how he put it. The photos of the event are great too. A big congratulations to John Gruber for having Phil Schiller on. I'm sure it was a thrill to do, and it was well deserved.

With the wrong interviewer, this could’ve been a recitation of PR-friendly softball questions with perfectly designed, talking-point responses that would’ve gone nowhere and benefitted no one. But Apple PR doesn’t want that any more than the audience does.

Or it could’ve been boring questions about hardware rumors that no Apple executive would ever answer. I’ve never seen another interviewer that didn’t waste time on these dead-ends that, in their wildest dreams, might answer questions relevant only for a few short months or years.

But John Gruber is better than that, and we all know it, including Apple.

Please go read it.

Mistake One

Yesterday, Marco Arment bought one of the new ultra-thin MacBooks. He wrote about his experiences in using it the first day, and why he's now going to return it. You should read his post to get all of the details of his critique.

In a post entitled "Mistake One", Marco Arment writes:

Instead, we have major compromises on previous invariants. Until now, since I started buying Macs 11 years ago, Apple had never shipped a laptop with a keyboard or trackpad that was less than great. They recognized that a laptop without a good keyboard wasn’t a good laptop, even if a lot of people would be OK with it and buy it anyway.

Now, Apple’s priorities have changed. Rather than make really great products that are mostly thin, they now make really thin products that are mostly great.

This concerns me more than you probably think it should. Not only does it represent compromised standards in areas I believe are important, but it suggests that they don’t have many better ideas to advance the products beyond making them thinner, and they’re willing to sacrifice anything to keep that going.

I'm not a laptop guy. I detest notebook computers because unlike most people (and I recognize I'm in an extreme minority here), I do not commute, I rarely travel, and I otherwise just use my computers in my office in a single room of my house and never have the need to move them.

For this reason, a notebook computer is nothing but a bucket full of compromises that I do not need or want. And that's fine. I recognize that most people need mobility, and desire ultra-portability while wanting fast computers. My beef with Apple is not this, but with their desires for thinness and lightness creeping into product lines that do not need these features.

In 2009, Apple rolled out the 27" iMac with an IPS display for the first time. The machine had a beefy, fast 7200 RPM hard drive in it. In 2012, the new iMacs released had a notebook-thin edge to them, from where the computer tapered down from the middle, in the back. Why? Because it made it look thin from the side. The drawbacks though? It went from having a 3.5" 7200 RPM hard drive inside with plenty of room to cool it, to having a slower, 2.5" 5400 RPM hard drive in it. These machines were also noticably hotter, due to their confined space.

Another example of this thiness-creep: The late 2013 Mac Pro. Now, don't get me wrong...I own one. And I love it. Its the best Mac I've ever owned....but this is also my first Mac Pro I've ever owned. The machine looks fantastic. But the rest of my desk? Awful. Why? Because in order to use the Mac Pro like I want to use it, like I would have used the previous cheese grater Mac Pro, is to have lots of external thunderbolt drives, connected to it. The previous Mac Pro could hold 4 drives internally, and have expansion slots & bays for things like additional SSDs or upgradeable video cards. This new Mac Pro has six thunderbolt slots. Apple basically told its pro users, "Hey folks! Jony wanted to make something small and pretty, but we recognize you actually need to use this machine for practical reasons, so, here are a lot of ports! Have fun!".

I don't know if we can lay the blame for these decisions on Jony Ive, but I'm going to do it because he's the person ultimately responsible for design, right? Whether he is directly responsibile or not, he is the person that has the power to change this. I think its clear from interviews we've seen him do, and videos we've seem him do, Jony doesn't like clutter. So Jony eliminates clutter. The problem is - he really isn't eliminating clutter at all. His customers still NEED that clutter - whether it be more storage space on Mac Pros or more ports on the MacBook. He's just ducking the responsibility of the clutter off to third parties. He's putting his fingers in his ears and going "LA-LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU" while shutting his eyes and thinking of Kansas. The result? More and more of Apple's products (like this new MacBook, like the Mac Pro) are pushing the burden and responsibility off on the customer or third party accessory maker so that Jony can pretend it isn't necessary. The result? My desk is cluttered with half a dozen external thunderbolt and USB 3 drives. MacBook users are going to have to buy Apple's ridiculous $80 dongle or thirdparty versions of it, in order to actually use the product as they need to use it. Sure, this makes their products look pretty in Apple stores and on their website in order to sell more of them. But I think its the cheap, easy, and lazy way out. The problem that needs solving includes these needs of their customers. By pretending like the needs doesn't exist, or refusing to bear the responsibility of solving them, Apple is making worse products. On the outside, these machines look beautiful but in practical, day-to-day use, are worse than the products they used to make. This makes me sad and disappointed.