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Here's why ad blockers don't work in the Apple News app

Apple's content blocker extensions, released last year, let third party apps set up rules to block ads, web fonts, comments, and other content in Safari and the also-new Safari View Controller, used in apps like Tweetbot to show web pages.

Content blockers don't, however, work in Apple's own News app. So, if a publisher doesn't serve Apple News Format, or provide a full RSS feed for Apple News to render, Apple News has to go out and get the original web page... ads and all. That's has led some to ask if there's a massive massive conspiracy at play designed to protect the ads of publishers enrolled in Apple's News program. The truth, of course, is far simpler and more mundane.

  • iOS content blockers only work in Safari and Safari View Controller
  • News.app isn't Safari and doesn't use Safari View Controller.

Safari View Controller offers a lot of performance and power, but it's tightly locked down for security reasons. That means, if you want a more flexible, custom way to show a web page, you have to use one of the earlier frameworks, like WKWebView. News wants to customize its web view to look like the app — check out the buttons at the bottom — so it's using WKWebView.

That means no content blockers, and no other extensions whose activation rules, like content blockers, only show up for Safari or Safari View Controller. (My password manager, for example, doesn't show up.)

In order to get content blockers — and other apple.active-webpage bound extensions — working in News, Apple would have to back-port support to the older web views, like WKWebView, or make Safari View Controller more customizable and switch to using that instead. (Easy for me to say — I'm a writer, I don't have to implement it or real with the security ramifications!)

Either way, it's a technical limitation, not an evil plan. (I double-checked that with a few developer friends intimately familiar with action extensions, just to make sure.) So, enjoy News the way it is for now or find yourself an article reading app you enjoy more. That's the beauty of the app ecosystem.

Updated July 2018: Apple News still doesn't allow ad blockers, and this information is still a clear explanation as to why that is.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

16 Comments
  • Makes sense If you want an app similar to News but a better RSS reader with more customization and safari view controller support I recommend Newsify
  • Well, I'm not sure you've actually dispelled the conspiracy theory here. You've said why blockers don't work, but it's still a relatively trivial thing for Apple to do to *make* it work, and they still have *chosen* NOT to do so. Which is pretty much the basis of the whole conspiracy theory.
  • Except I wrote the opposite of that :) It's non-trivial.
  • Actually, adding the support for conventional ad removal is trivial. Adding support to the alternative web view is a trivial matter, especially for a company as large as Apple.
  • Trivial or non trivial, conspiracy or not conspiracy, I don't think that with everything going on right now with Apple trying to get iOS 10, MacOS Sierra, supposedly new iPhones, along with any other hardware out the door right now that supporting ad blockers is real high on the totem pole of priority. I would also add that for Apple to have a news app, it needs contributors, and that is contributors who are supported by ads.
  • Simple formula to deal with ads in Apple News: Apple News + ios10 = DELETE Sent from the iMore App
  • I like Apple News, it's quite a satisfying way to read news. What you can do, is block ads on a network level, then ads get blocked everywhere
  • Use Opera VPN, it blocks ads within apps. (I haven't tried it in News, but it blocks ads in the apps that I have tried)
  • I like to refer to this as Magazine articles u used to pick from the news agencies back in the day.. Could we remove those ads ? Nope..... So why should we do this now *just using digital* as a foot hold ? I can understand in browsers, since there's a reason, an annoyance of overlaying the screen, or on most others too many ads to even read the content,, but I would like to think Apple news subscription articles know better. in Apple's News app. If u can view it online,,, that's on the web,, not in the app...... I reckon there *should* be a difference.
  • I agree with this. The different between webpage ads and the News app ads, is that webpage ads can be unpredictable. Webpage ads can be really in your face, obnoxiously sized, or even "pop-up" in some form. Ads on the News app are just like ones in magazine articles like you said, they're just at the side, they don't intervene in your reading from what I've found
  • > Webpage ads can be really in your face, obnoxiously sized You mean like these, show in my paid Apple News app? https://imgur.com/a/kPOyheW
  • Are these ads as intrusive? I don't mind ads if they're not. (By intrusive, I mean, do they follow you around the web.)
  • I'm going to respond with: No. Apple believes in clean design, and whilst the News app has ads, they're certainly not intrusive in my opinion, I've used the News app for a while and I've never found them to be a problem. I haven't seen them follow me around the web
  • I have a different definition of intrusive. For me, that means advertising that repeatedly intrudes on my reading experience. I have developed an almost zero tolerance for advertising these days. And I find it distressing to see the steady increase in advertising on Apple News. Looks like instead of subscribing to Apple’s new subscription bundle, I’m going to have to delete the News app from my devices entirely.
  • I use a network ad blocker at home. Pi-hole setup. It runs on my server mac in the background. I just start the VM from the terminal and my entire network at home ad free. I still use an adblocker on my device so when im not at home. I guess I could always setup a VPN at home too and use the pi-hole DNS but thats to much IMO.
  • We’re now nearing the end of 2020, and on top of every other terrible thing that’s happened this year I’m now noticing a disturbing increase in the amount of intrusive advertising I see on Apple News., which is what brought me to this article. Silly question: does an Apple News+ subscription remove ads? And if the answer is no, what is Apple smoking? This has Eddy Cue written all over it. The man with the reverse Midas touch.