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Samsung Adds Ad Blocking To Its Android Phones

The move could spell big trouble for publishers and comes after Apple added similar software in iOS 9.

[Photo: Flickr user Maurizio Pesce]

If you’re an online publisher, you aren’t going to like this bit of news: As of Sunday night, Samsung has added ad-blocking software to all of its Android devices, reports the Guardian. The software, which is built in to the default Samsung web browser that ships on its devices, automatically blocks ads from appearing on web pages. The new ad-blocking software was added via a software update.

The news of Samsung’s ad blocker comes just months after Apple enabled support for controversial content blockers in its iOS 9 software, which runs on most iPhones and iPads. In iOS 9, users can download ad-blocking software (also known as content blockers) so they can stop seeing ads in web pages while surfing via Apple’s Safari browser.

Apple’s move to add content blockers was seen as a proxy shot across the bow at its largest competitor, Google, which makes most of its money from selling ads. However, many web publishers said the real people that Apple’s content blockers will hurt are small publishers themselves. Apple’s content blockers have also caused headaches for online retailers.

While it seems a bit obvious why Apple would enable ad blockers on iOS 9, it's a surprise that Samsung has enabled them given that Samsung is one of Google’s largest hardware partners and the company’s Android smartphones account for 22% of all smartphones sold in 2015. What’s even more surprising is that Samsung has added ad blocking right into the default web browser itself. Unlike with iOS 9, users do not need to download third-party content blockers to remove ads from web pages.

As the Guardian notes, until Apple introduced content blockers in iOS 9 the amount of people using ad blockers on mobile devices was relatively low. But since ad blocker became available on iPhones, ad blocking has become almost as popular on mobiles as on desktops. With Samsung now baking ad blocking into its default browser, it's possible mobiles could overtake desktops as far as ad blocking is concerned. That could be a big worry to online publishers considering that mobile Internet usage has rocketed past desktop Internet usage.

However, many point out that ad blocker use wouldn’t be as extensive if advertisers weren't so aggressive with their advertising methods–-a point the advertising trade association Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) conceded in a blog post right after the introduction of content blockers on iOS 9.

"We have let the fine equilibrium of content, commerce, and technology get out of balance in the open web," the IAB said in a blog post. "We had, and still do have, a responsibility to educate the business side, and in some cases to push back. We lost sight of our social and ethical responsibility to provide a safe, usable experience for anyone and everyone wanting to consume the content of their choice."