Mozilla Offers New 'Content Blocker' for iOS 9 Users

By Brian Carey December 08, 2015

Mozilla recently launched a “content blocker” for iOS 9. In spite of the name, the app is actually designed to only block ads that are trackers.

The new app, called Focus by Firefox, takes advantage of iOS 9’s content-blocking feature. Users of the app will also need to access the Settings feature of iOS to set up content blocking. Fortunately, the app provides users with a step-by-step configuration guide.

Even though the app uses the content-blocking feature of iOS 9, it doesn’t block all ads. Instead, it just blocks ads that trackers.

Trackers are ad units that collect data about a user's activity across multiple websites or apps, some of which might not be owned by the data collector. Trackers also aggregate and share the data collected.

“This is our first effort,” says Nick Nguyen, Firefox’s vice president of product. “Just like everything we build, we’re trying to make the Internet better, long-term.”

Nguyen added that many other iOS 9 blockers are for-profit. Focus, on the other hand, is free.

Users can also control which types of trackers to block. The app categorizes trackers into various categories: analytics, social, ads, and “other content trackers.” The “other” option essentially blocks everything, and may prevent some websites from loading properly.

“The other content trackers category includes things like video, photo and embeddable content that tracks users,” Nguyen says. “Turning this category on will block some video embeds and may even break some sites completely.”

Focus also gives users the option to block Web fonts. That improves the mobile experience by reducing data usage and reducing load times.

The app employs the blocking list produced by Disconnect and published under the General Public License. That list is available for anyone to view on GitHub.

“We think Disconnect’s public list provides a good starting point that demonstrates the value of open data,” says Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla’s legal and business officer. “It bases its list on a public definition of tracking and publicly identifies any changes it makes to that list, so users and content providers can see and understand the standards it is applying.”

An important point to remember for iOS users, though, is that the app only works with Firefox. Users who prefer to visit websites using the operating system’s native browser, Safari, won’t see ad content blocked.

“This was not our choice — Apple has chosen to make content blocking unavailable to third party browsers on iOS,” Nguyen says. “Apple Developer Guidelines do not allow us to incorporate their Content Blocking API into Private Browsing on Firefox for iOS. We would love to see this API open up in the future. We are exploring how we can provide this feature on Firefox for iOS and will deliver it as soon as it’s possible.”

Nguyen says that he’d also like to build the new app “into anything that runs iOS 9.”




Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Writer

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Bloomberg BETA: Models Are Key to Machine Intelligence

By: Paula Bernier    4/19/2018

James Cham, partner at seed fund Bloomberg BETA, was at Cisco Collaboration Summit today talking about the importance of models to the future of machi…

Read More

Get Smart About Influencer Attribution in a Blockchain World

By: Maurice Nagle    4/16/2018

The retail value chain is in for a blockchain-enabled overhaul, with smarter relationships, delivering enhanced transparency across an environment of …

Read More

Facebook Flip-Flopping on GDPR

By: Maurice Nagle    4/12/2018

With GDPR on the horizon, Zuckerberg in Congress testifying and Facebook users questioning loyalty, change is coming. What that change will look like,…

Read More

The Next Phase of Flash Storage and the Mid-Sized Business

By: Joanna Fanuko    4/11/2018

Organizations amass profuse amounts of data these days, ranging from website traffic metrics to online customer surveys. Collectively, AI, IoT and eve…

Read More

Satellite Imaging - Petabytes of Developer, Business Opportunities

By: Doug Mohney    4/11/2018

Hollywood has programmed society into believing satellite imaging as a magic, all-seeing tool, but the real trick is in analysis. Numerous firms are f…

Read More