Adblock Plus releases ad-blocking browser for Android, iOS

Google pulled an Adblock Plus app from the Play Store in 2013, claiming it interfered with other products and services

Adblock Plus has released a browser for Android and iOS that is designed to shield mobile device users from ads while they browse the web.

Both the Android and iOS versions are available now for free, Adblock Plus said Tuesday. The AdBlock Plus browser can block all types of mobile ads, stop users from landing on malicious sites and turn off social media buttons.

An Adblock Plus app had previously been available from Google's Play Store, but the  program was pulled by Google in 2013, along with other ad-blocking apps. At that time, Google said it removed the AdBlock Plus app because it interfered with other services and products. A beta version of the Adblock Plus browser for Android has been available since May of this year.

Adblock Plus didn't address the previous dustup with Google, only saying in a blog post that the app has "a rocky history with the Play Store."

In a news release, Till Faida, co-founder of AdBlock Plus, said he was "grateful" to have the app back in the Play Store.

Adblock Plus claims its browser loads web pages faster than other browsers since it blocks ads, which can take a while to load. In turn, this lets people cut down on battery and data usage, according to Adblock Plus. Other features offered by the browser include the ability to disable tracking and to create whitelists of websites that can show ads.

This is the first time an Adblock Plus app has been offered for iOS, Faida said. Developing the browser for Apple's mobile OS was important given the platform's popularity, especially in the U.S., he added.

The timing of AdBlock Plus for iOS, which is available from the Apple App Store, is notable. On Wednesday, Apple is expected to release iOS 9, which will allow users to block ads in the Safari browser of iPhones and iPads.

However, Adblock Plus didn't say how its browser would be superior to an ad-blocking feature that's native to iOS.

AdBlock Plus referenced the arrival of Safari's ad-blocking abilities in the blog post, saying its browser permits the function immediately while it may not appear in Apple's browser for weeks.

The iOS version offers many of the ad-blocking features found in its Android counterpart, but also provides better scrolling compared to Safari, easier bookmarking and an improved keyboard, Adblock Plus said.

Overall, though, the benefits of its browser are similar on both mobile OSes, according to Adblock Plus.

Letting users block ads has proven controversial. Web publishers have frowned upon the move, saying ad revenue pays for their sites. At the same time, security researchers are noting an uptick in malicious ads that attempt to install malware on a person's computer, Adblock Plus said.

Adblock Plus is an open-source software project from Eyeo, a company based in Cologne, Germany, that uses volunteers to build applications.

Eyeo gets by on donations as well as money paid to it from "larger entities" participating in its Acceptable Ads initiative, which calls for ads that aren't "annoying," are effective without "shouting" at people and don't hinder the ability to read the content on a page, among other criteria.

In addition to the Android and iOS browsers, Adblock Plus previously developed an ad-blocking browser extension for Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Maxthon and Opera.

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Fred O'Connor

IDG News Service
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