Android users rejoiced earlier this week with the news that Android 4.2.2 was rolling out, but after the update, many of them noticed a not-so-good change. Adblock Plus is one of the most used and most popular Android apps ever, but with Android 4.2.2, it is no longer functional.
Adblock Plus is much more complex than you may think and relies on quite a few under the hood things. The app requires the ability to automatically set a device's proxy to 'localhost', which as many of you security experts are probably aware of, is a huge security hole and could be used for malicious things such as phishing scams or privacy hacking. Sure what Adblock Plus was using it for isn't all that bad (in most people's eyes), Google risk all of its users security just for one app. With Android 4.2.2, Google finally patched this hole and effectively killed the ad blocking service.
How will the Adblock Plus team get around this? Well, it won't be easy. Currently, the app automatically changes the proxy settings when activated, but no that the privilege was removed by Google, the user will be required to change it on every launch. That could get extremely annoying time and cause most users to just give up on the app.
In a statement the Adblock Plus lead developer said that the team will focus on making the proxy changing process as smooth and frustration free as possible, though they hope that Google will offer an API for the task with the next update.
This fix has made it impossible for Adblock Plus to automatically set the proxy for the current active connection. From a security perspective it makes sense but it has a significant, negative impact on everyone who uses our app. While in Android 2.x the proxy was globally configured for all connections, this changed with Android 4.x which requires to individually set a proxy for each Wi-Fi connection. In addition to that the proxy has to be set each time a user connects to a network and the process of changing those settings is not very user-friendly.
There is not much we can do right now except making the process as simple and as smooth of an experience for our users as possible. We hope for another update from Google with their next Android release to provide us with an appropriate API so that our app can work even better on non-rooted devices.
While it's unlikely that Google made this change just to prevent ad blocking apps from working, there's a small chance. Website owners and administrators have very different views on ad blockers than users do. For many websites, ads are their main source of income, so if users use ad blockers, a major chunk of revenue is cut-off. Readers often use apps like Adblock Plus because it drastically speeds up web browsing in some cases.
What are your thoughts on Ad blockers? Should people use them? Let us know down in the comments!