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The iPhone’s Ad-Blocking Apps Are Stirring Up Trouble For Online Retailers

Crystal, a popular ad-blocking app for the iPhone, is allegedly obstructing images and text on retail sites like Sears.com.

The iPhone’s Ad-Blocking Apps Are Stirring Up Trouble For Online Retailers
[Photo: Flickr user Faris Algosaibi]

Since the release of iOS 9, which supports ad blockers, a number of apps that obstruct ads have made their way into the App Store. The use of these apps on iPhones, in particular, appears to be compromising the mobile sites of retailers like Walmart and Sears–and could potentially hinder online sales in the coming months.

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With the help of e-commerce software company Branding Brand, Fortune found that using popular ad-blocking app Crystal on an iPhone prevented the mobile sites of some retailers from showing essential elements, like images or the price of a product. Fortune noted, for example, that it was impossible to add products to the shopping cart on Walmart’s mobile site, while the homepage of Sears.com did not load at all. Fortune‘s findings only refer to glitches caused by Crystal, which blocked scripts that are usually used to display important information to customers.

“This upcoming holiday season… content-blockers are going to cause a lot of problems,” Branding Brand CEO Chris Mason told Fortune. The apps could prevent consumers from using mobile sites and make it difficult for retailers to use analytics platforms like Google Analytics and Adobe Omniture, which have become essential to monitoring consumer activity in the e-commerce business.

Apple’s decision to embrace ad blocking led to an outpouring of complaints from publishers. Companies like Apple use a subscription model to bring in money, but many publications and sites rely on advertising to offer free web experiences to users. As the Monday Note blog’s Jean-Louis Gassee wrote recently, however, it looks like ad blockers are here to stay: “We’re now about to have a cleaner set of content blocking APIs in upcoming versions of Safari for OS X (desktop) and iOS 9 (mobile). These APIs will allow app developers, Apple included, to create a range of blocking tools aimed at removing or filtering ads and improving privacy.”

Read more about Crystal’s disappearing act over at Fortune.

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