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Focus by Firefox, a Content Blocker for iOS (blog.mozilla.org)
446 points by special_guest on Dec 8, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 255 comments



We just pushed the button on stage at the Mozilla All-hands. It should by live in most countries now.

https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1055677337

Ask us anything you want to know about this product.

Also, keep an eye on the Github repo.

https://github.com/mozilla/focus

We are still watching the Keynote but will flip the switch soon.


What's the two-word summary of why I'd want to use this app over one of the other content blockers?


Again, can't sum up in two words, but can sum it up in two points. This would be better because:

* It's by Mozilla, and it's more likely (probability wise) to be maintained and kept up-to-date than those that happen to be a single person's hobby project.

* I believe that big players in the web like Mozilla and EFF (eff.org) really fight for us, the common people. :) The more these things become popular, especially from bigger names, the better the chances of the whole ad-tracker-privacy ecosystem to improve for our good.


The "two word" thing is a joke, but your two points are pretty good. The combination of "maintained by decently large organization" and "non-evil" is probably unique in this space.


> more likely (probability wise) to be maintained

Mozilla is starting to develop a bad track record on this recently.


Reminds me of the arguments against the CA ecosystem in favor of browser cert pinning. It's much easier to trust Mozilla (or Google, or whomever else) than to trust the fifty-odd root CAs installed on my computer, and all their granted intermediates.


what about besides "known household name"? any technical merit? anything you know you do better than the alternative, for a fact?

and in the process of fairness, any other blocker doing anything better that you plan to add to yours?


Technical merit? I don't really know. This is based on the open source tracker list from Disconnect (disconnect.me).

FWIW, I was never into paying for an ad-blocker on iOS since that comes with its pitfalls. I have tried a couple of other free ones, and I did like Adblock Fast [1], the one I was using until Focus by Firefox and the one I still have. It's open source and is available for Chrome (not iOS), Opera (not iOS) and Safari (iOS 9). I'd suggest reading through the GitHub page to see some stats as well as the philosophy (of not making money or compromising it with acceptable ads). [2]

[1]: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/adblock-fast/id1032930802

[2]: https://github.com/rocketshipapps/adblockfast


I always used someonewhocares.org host list on my wireless modems to protect my IOS devices (which never leave the house anyway, since they exist only to test apps/sites for people like you that do not value device ownership :)

the list that site provides blocks practically every single ad, malware, etc. But it is not very practical to keep up to date.


authority, ambition


can't do a two word, but you don't have to worry about maintainer accepting $$ to allow certain ads through, as has happened with at least one other iOS content blocker


"credible nonprofit"


Upvote for rising to my absurd challenge and making a decent argument too.


How about: "Reliable curation"


"It's free!"


That's certainly an item in the "pro" column, but there are lots of other free ones out there.


If someone were to gain some traction in this space I would prefer it to be a credible organisation.

I long thought that this should be driven by a foundation , rather than a private enterprise, but I wanted the additional benefit of delegating the profits to a particular donation.

The hooks are implemented by Apple and the data is crowd sourced. I don't see any reason why anyone should profit in this space.


"I don't see any reason why anyone should profit in this space."

Because there's still work in putting it together and maintaining it? And because profiting from doing this means they're less likely to take money from an ad company?


If it were anything other than Mozilla, wouldn't that be a Con? Because then it'd be more likely that the maintainer would take money to let ads by.


Well... One of the best selling paid versions, Crystal, is going to allow companies to pay for "acceptable ads."

Personally, I think the people who paid for blockers were ripped off, there's nothing special or difficult in building a content blocker:

1. The majority of the value, the blocking list, it readily available and actively maintained.

2. Performance and integration into iOS is provided by Apple, you simply produce a format that Apple approves.

So what are you paying for? Marketing, packaging, and giving a 3rd party control?


So why should anyone make a content blocker, unless they're someone with a mission to do so, like Mozilla or the EFF?


I get the feeling that you have some deep seated capitalistic ideals. Do you do anything that you can't make money from?

I can think of a few reasons to make a content blocker:

1. Improve privacy for users on the Internet.

2. Decrease cost and speed for people who pay for data, or have bad connections.

3. Challenge revenue streams of large corporations.

4. Fame.

5. Improve strangers lives.


Those are good reasons. But I don't see anything about why one shouldn't be paid for it.


Any reason you're not supporting the iPhone 5 or 5C? Is there something you need which they don't support?


The 5 and 5C do not have 64 bit processors, which is a requirement for Content Blockers.


Content blockers seem to work on 32-bit devices if you compile for them:

"Yes, but I'd guess it's an arbitrary limitation—at least it seems to be for A6 devices. BlockParty works perfectly on my iPhone 5C and apparently on @wadetregaskis' iPhone 5, both of which are 32 bit A6 (and not officially supported). I get all the relevant menus, and it does block ads (even the huge easylist conversion works, albeit poorly)." [1]

1: https://github.com/krishkumar/BlockParty/issues/9#issuecomme...


Apple chose not support 32 bit devices in their blocking API, which isn't too unreasonable. I imagine it kept the code quite a bit cleaner (or avoided having to run parallel implementations to get good speed).


As the parent says, the API works fine as is, today, on 32-bit devices - you're just not allowed to submit code to the App Store that takes advantage of this. There is no JIT or anything else inherently architecture specific in the WebKit content blocker implementation. Thus the restriction comes either from a semi-arbitrary determination of the speed of Apple's first 64-bit processor, and/or the amount of RAM that came with it, as the boundary below which content blockers might cause unacceptable performance regression (despite their /improving/ performance on many sites)... or from some odd marketing plan to sell newer devices. Hard to say which.


Personally, I doubt it's a marketing thing. Apple do sometimes restrict software features to specific devices (Siri when it launched originally), but this is rather oddly processor-dependant. So I assume it's a performance thing.


Apparently blocking ads is harder than landing on the Moon. :|


the moon isn't actively altering its surface and orbital pattern to prevent you from landing there


Maybe it is and that's why they faked it! /s


Saturn V rocket is not yet required for content blockers.


Modern designer and UI experts demand better--really worse--UI than the moon lander had[0]. This can make almost any project harder than landing on the moon.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj2IETkScWA


The moon doesn't generate as much money as ads.


iOS content blockers don't support 32bit CPUs, apparently for performance reasons. This is an Apple decision, not a Mozilla decision (all other iOS content blockers face the same limitation)


Not sure why you're being downvoted. I actually had the same question, and found out by seeing the responses to your question that 64 bit is required.


Just a curiosity I have found: why does no ad blocker, Focus included, block ads on 4chan (4chan-ads.org, IMC)?


Because 4chan's ads aren't invasive and they don't track you. They're just small banner images displayed at the top and bottom of the page with no JS, no flash, etc.


Precisely the type of ads we should be celebrating since they subsidize the content we consume. A lot of people either are oblivious to their actual importance, or just don't care. The internet simply wouldn't be what it is today without them. True, there has been plenty of bad (trackers, malware, etc), but the good that has come from that subsidization has lead us to where we are today. A vast majority of the innovation on the internet has been directly or indirectly related to that subsidization.


I can determine what ads I do and do not want to block. How many other ads does Focus by Firefox not block?

Edit: Y'all downvote weird shit sometimes. Marco quit the ad blocking game because he didn't want to be the arbiter of what did and did not get blocked. It's perfectly reasonable to question what a given blocker will and will not block. And perfectly valid to wish to have that control.


Also, on a more technical level 4chan's ads aren't served from a well known ad host like Google, so they wouldn't be blocked by a typical blacklist without filtering URLs containing ad -- which some adblockers do, causing [all kinds of problems] [0].

[0]: https://medium.com/medium-eng/the-unluckiest-paragraphs-751d...


> On most webpages, if you click a link, the browser automatically handles loading a new page. On Medium, we speed this up a bit with JavaScript.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHH

You really don't need to reimplement the <a> tag in javascript. You really don't. You really don't. Ever. Stop. Argh. Fuck. Fucking web developers.


So much Swift!

All iOS developers I know are hopeful about Swift, but say that they wouldn't use it for a serious, large-scale project yet. (I'm a Unity developer that only occasionally touches native iOS or Android code). What was your experience with it?


That's interesting, I've had almost the opposite experience. The team I work on is slowing migrating over (new classes and classes that need refactoring are done in Swift), and most of my friends who are iOS developers have told me they're doing the same.

FWIW, I work at a medium sized company (~300 employees) who is owned by a larger company (15k employees).


Swift is ready. For a much bigger project in Swift, look at

https://github.com/mozilla/firefox

It was a rough road while we went from Swift pre-1.0 to 2.1 but it was totally worth it.


I guess you meant to link this one: https://github.com/mozilla/firefox-ios

In any case, Swift has been an eye opener for me, and I'm always keen to read someone else's code to learn more. Thanks for your contributions :)

Does st3fan refer to Sublime Text 3, perchance?


Firefox isn't written in Swift (and Firefox isn't hosted on Github anyway), I'm guessing that you meant https://github.com/mozilla/firefox-ios .


I'm a small development team (there are only 5-6 engineers, and I'm the only iOS one right now). I've gotten the go ahead to move to Swift as well. It's been fairly easy with only one strange crash so far.


I'm on a Swift project for an App in the neighbourhood of millions of DAUs. Swift is ready.


Why don't you charge for this? I would be more than willing to pay.


Make a donation to the Mozilla Foundation?


That's not as easy, though. :)


https://mozilla.org/donate ?

edit: ahh, you want a "donate $X" IAP.


How about https://donate.mozilla.org?

Disclosure: I'm a Mozilla Foundation employee, who helped build that


That Github URL isn't working. Cheers to the team! (I'm way off in the corner of the room) :)


Should be live now! And we are working on some better landing page.


What about desktop Firefox?


You Github repo is unaccessible at the moment :/


Wording makes it sound like you pushed a button and an app was on the app store globally in less than a week...

Are you a magician?


I was under the impression a developer had the final say in when an app goes live once it's passed Apple's review, thus allowing them to submit it in advance, have it reviewed, and then make it public at a time of their choosing?


Yep. I used this a few times back when I did App Store development. (Though it still takes a few hours to show up for everyone, at least as of a few years ago.)


Still does. Apple continues to completely fail at any sort of distributed system. It amazes me that Google is able to index the entire web so quickly that I can post a comment on a random web site and have it show up in search results two minutes later, while Apple takes hours and hours for something to show up in their store after you push a button on their own control panel.


Google has the same problem; submit changes to a Play Store listing (or a new version) and it takes a couple hours to be universally visible. So it's not an Apple vs Google issue.

Source: I've done far too many app deployments for work (200+)


You're just letting the facts get in the way of a good apple bashing.

/sarcasm


The fact that Google does it badly with their store too doesn't make it any better. Google search was just an example of how a much harder task is done far more quickly. I didn't even think of the Google/Apple rivalry in this space.


Have you considered that maybe it just isn't quite as simple a problem as you imagine?


Of course. And my conclusion is that, while the problem is hard, it can be solved. That it's not solved is either a lack of skill or a lack of will (or some combination thereof), not because it's an impossible task.

On Apple's side, they don't care in the least about the poor experience of third-party developers, as has been proven many times throughout the years. They're also struggling to keep a massive system going which has diverged substantially from its original scope and purpose as the iTunes Music Store. Combine a hard problem with zero motivation to improve it and you get what we have.


> And my conclusion is that, while the problem is hard, it can be solved

And yet two of the biggest software companies on the planet, both who have a huge vested interest in getting people to use their respective app stores, haven't just magically fixed it yet.

I'm also calling bullshit on your claim of not being unnecessarily anti-Apple, or giving Google a free pass or whatever. Every single negative comment you've made about this has been targeted specifically at Apple, making literally no mention of Google's App store which has exactly the same "problem".

By your own claim, the problem should be easier to solve than general web indexing, which Google clearly have a lot more experience in than Apple - so if it's "zero motivation" from Apple, what is it from Google, sheer contempt?


> Every single negative comment you've made about this has been targeted specifically at Apple, making literally no mention of Google's App store which has exactly the same "problem".

I've been an Apple user for almost 30 years. I've been involved with the App Store since before it was available to the public. The only smartphones I've ever owned personally have been iPhones.

I simply don't use Google Play. I've done some Android development, but other people always handled the distribution end of things.

I am commenting personally, based on my own personal experience. I have no idea why you think I would or should be fair and balanced in this, analyzing Google Play with the same force I do the App Store. I'm not in a position to comment on Google Play. I used Google search as a comparison because I use that many times a day.

Why is every single negative comment I've made about this targeted specifically at Apple? Because that's the freakin' topic of of the freakin' conversation here, and because it's what I know.

Go get someone with years of experience dealing with Google Play if you want that perspective. Don't hassle me for not providing it for you.


You are correct. Google Play just added this feature as well.


When you submit your app you can opt for Apple to release it immediately upon approval, or wait for you to manually release it.

Mozilla likely submitted the app a couple of weeks ago and just hit the release button today.


There was a joke made on stage about how it was submitted weeks ago, and they were sweating bullets, because it still hadn't quite gotten approval, and then finally, it came through yesterday.


Unfortunately the app review process is not very transparent. It is unclear why it took so long. It is best to not try to understand it's inner workings.

But for comparison, Firefox for iOS, a MUCH larger app, has had perfectly predictable review times for the past couple of releases: 7 days in the queue, few hours for review.

Focus was 7 days in the queue and then a couple of weeks In Review.

It happens. To all of us.


"Currently, Focus by Firefox only works with Safari, not Firefox for iOS. This was not our choice—Apple has chosen to make content blocking unavailable to third party browsers on iOS. We are exploring how we can provide this feature on Firefox for iOS and will deliver it as soon as it’s possible."

The main reason I went back to Safari after getting Firefox for iOS.


To be fair, I would be incredibly surprised if creating a built-in Android content blocker is something Google would even consider, let alone implement.

It is disappointing that they aren't making that API public, but just having that be a core feature of their operating system is pretty huge. Hopefully they have plans to make it public or Firefox will just implement their own ad-blocker into IOS firefox.


Firefox for Android ships with their own browser engine and access to a vast extension library including AdBlock Plus and uBlock. Apple doesn't permit this on iOS which is why Firefox for iOS is using the Mobile Safari engine, doesn't support extensions, and doesn't support ad blocking.


To be fair, Firefox can and does ship their own browser engine on Android, something that is forbidden on IOS.


Complete with full extension support, including good ol' uBlock.


It's just surprising to me that "Focus by Firefox" wasn't first made a Firefox Extension for mobile and desktop...


Firefox desktop has numerous adblockers/tracker blockers already available. Mozilla is even sourcing the list from one of the more popular ones, Disconnect. I assume they didn't feel the need to reinvent the wheel in that ecosystem.

Disconnect may be available on Firefox mobile as well, I'd need to check. I never bother beyond uBlock Origin and Self-Destructing Cookies.


>Apple has chosen to make content blocking unavailable to third party browsers on iOS.

Someone has some context to this? I am using Ad-Blocker Browser on iOS and it blocks ads just fine.


is it doing its own ad blocking or is it doing ad blocking as a safari ad block extension? There is a very specific high-performant ad block mechanism in iOS now.


If it's anything like the ones I looked at a while back, it goes through a proxy to strip the ads. So all of your web browsing goes through a 3rd party. I'm no technical wiz on such things, but I can't think of how else it could work without being an Apple-approved Safari extension.


It could run a local proxy on the device itself, perhaps. I know iPhone apps can expose HTTP servers to other devices on WiFi for file sharing, so I wouldn't be surprised if you can expose it to localhost too.


Mm, good point, and given that I actually wrote a baby web server for serving up docs a long time ago, I'm disappointed that it didn't occur to me. In fact, I wonder why more don't do that. All of the ones I looked at (and it's hardly an all-encompassing list) seemed to do it through a proxy that the dev hosted.


It's a browser shell which has been doing ad blocking for over a year, so it would probably do it's own thing.


> it blocks ads just fine.

In Safari? Working as intended. In Chrome or Firefox? Unexpected (according to their link).


If the ad blocking is built-in to the browser, it should work fine. It's the new content-blocking plugins that only work in Safari.


Apple doesn't let custom browsers use anything other than their WebView component for rendering, and WebViews are pretty limited when it comes to modifying page content.


The new Safari View Controller can use content blockers, but it basically opens a Safari window over the top of the app you're viewing (doesn't adhere to the app's design at all).


I'm so confused here - I thought Apple added the ability to create content blockers to reduce revenue on the web so that more content providers resort to ADs and they get a bigger slice of the pie.

Why would Mozilla help them in their goal? Wouldn't it mean less reliance on the web and less Firefox in the long run?

What am I missing here?


Focus is a tracking blocker, not an ad blocker. Mozilla doesn't have a fundamental problem with display advertising on the web, but we do have a problem with the privacy intrusions associated with invisible trackers.


> Focus is a tracking blocker, not an ad blocker. Mozilla doesn't have a fundamental problem with display advertising on the web, but we do have a problem with the privacy intrusions associated with invisible trackers.

This comment is not directed at you, but is a more general take from your statement. With the state of the web we've had for quite sometime, I think the distinction between advertising on the web and privacy intrusion doesn't exist (barring very few exceptions). Most advertising platforms specialize in and indulge in privacy intrusions.

I know only of The Deck (deck network) that does not track users. And that's used only in a minuscule amount of sites that most non-tech people may not even encounter it.

Additionally, advertising has also become very heavy (in terms of bandwidth), distracting (how many ads can you even show until it becomes irritating and impossible to get to the actual content?) and annoying (just stop it with the popup layers, prompts and auto-playing videos with or without sound).

The entire user experience is completely ruined on many sites because of the insane amount of ads present. Nobody seems to care about this aspect at least until they get hit by ad-blockers. Not even large and popular tech sites do anything about user tracking (Ars, I'm looking at you and other popular sites).

Even if they do care, some or many are unable to change things. The whole system is complex and corrupt. Fighting back with ad-blockers despite "collateral damage" is probably the best way forward since the ad industry is not really stopping and changing things effectively or quickly.


Tracking goes way beyond advertising. An ad-blocker won't block Twitter's "Tweet" or Facebook's "Like" buttons or any third party service that isn't directly involved in serving ads. If your concern is your privacy, then an ad-blocker doesn't help as much as you think it does. See: https://donottrack-doc.com/en/


I know the differences, but I haven't seen any popular ad-blockers that don't also block or allow blocking trackers because they all have various blacklists you can use (I'm referring to the ones like uBlock Origin and Adblock Plus).


Where can I find such blacklists for uBlock / AdBlock Plus meant for trackers? Is there a page documenting them somewhere? I'd be interested.


uBlock Origin, at least, offers many such lists in its third party filter's page[1]:

Basic tracking list by Disconnect‎ EasyPrivacy‎ (forums.lanik.us) Fanboy’s Enhanced Tracking List‎ (forums.lanik.us)

Anti-ThirdpartySocial (see warning inside list)‎ (forums.lanik.us) Fanboy’s Annoyance List‎ (forums.lanik.us) Fanboy’s Social Blocking List‎ (forums.lanik.us)

Malvertising filter list by Disconnect‎ Malware Domain List‎ (malwaredomainlist.com) Malware domains‎ (www.malwaredomains.com) Malware domains (long-lived)‎ (www.malwaredomains.com) Malware filter list by Disconnect‎ Spam404‎ (www.spam404.com)

1 chrome://ublock0/content/dashboard.html#3p-filters.html


CLick on the uBlock Origin options tab and you will find a list of all the 3rd party filter lists in use ( & available by default). Most of these include a link to the source site.


I get the sense a lot of those are community-knowledge-only documented, so IRC (I would assume) might be the best place to start if you're interested.


And how are sites going to earn revenue in order to stay up? We've already shown that no one is willing to pay for it.


I thought Apple added the ability to create content blockers to reduce revenue on the web so that more content providers resort to ADs and they get a bigger slice of the pie.

There's no non-tinfoil evidence of this. A much simpler explanation is that Apple did this because mobile browsing was becoming unusable. Nothing Apple does by tweaking their browser is going to get them a 'bigger slice of the pie' than the 40% of sweet profit on selling you a $600 phone. Unless the browser is so horrible you decide to buy a different phone.


Yes, it's hard to show off your superfast 64-bit chip performance and incredible LTE bandwidth when the browser is bogged down by loading several megabytes of JavaScript from 76 distinct origins. And the user experience isn't great when half the screen is ads.

(Hyperbole, obviously, but.)


User will avoid the web if it provide poor user experience. What user want major battery drains, unwanted traffic cost, and all the drawbacks of malware-behavior that spies, steals, and acts hostile?

The current system is unsustainable and advertisement through the web is slowly turning into the same fate as advertisement through email, and people and companies did not stop using email when spam started to get universally blocked.


Mozilla is no longer an ideological organization, if it ever was one. This gets them media attention and may attract more donations, which will perpetuate the organization's existence.


Maybe you meant "idealistic", which they aren't any more, instead of "ideological", which they have become, progressively.


Mozilla is no longer an ideological organization

[Citation needed]


This is one example. Pocket is another.


As the original developer of Disconnect, on which Focus’s blocking is said to be based, I (with my development team) created a new, open-source ad blocker for Chrome, Opera, and iOS called Adblock Fast (http://adblockfast.com/ and https://github.com/rocketshipapps/adblockfast on GitHub) because I think Disconnect became abandonware after I left the project a year and a half ago – there was one commit made to Disconnect in 2015 (https://github.com/disconnectme/disconnect/commits/master).


Is there any reason I should switch to this from AdBlock Plus?

Edit: I see the chart comparing the two on your github page. Are you planning a firefox version?


Yes, see the benchmarks and last FAQ on http://adblockfast.com/.

Edit: Yes to Firefox as well, see https://github.com/rocketshipapps/adblockfast/issues/23 for timeline.


how does it compare to ublock?


Erm, are we talking here about the same disconnect which offers paid VPN services on iOS & Android and a free content blocking extension for Safari iOS?


I linked to Disconnect’s apparently abandoned open-source project (https://github.com/disconnectme/disconnect), which I presume is the basis of Focus’s blocking.


...and they don't provide a link!? Oh well.

Still, I welcome this move from Mozilla. Been wondering what to use since 'Peace' was removed.


https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1055677337

It's still propagating through the various servers, so it may not be available in your region right now.


"Apple doesn't abuse its power" only allows a Firefox content blocker in safari


...and yet if the content blockers ran in all apps, people would definitely be complaining that Apple was abusing its power. They can't win!


Yes they can: by allowing app developers to opt-in.


If the app uses a 'Safari View Controller' then it works just fine... That is something app developers can opt-in to, and it also provides the fastest browsing experience for users.


So that's why Twitter web views have ads even with content blockers enabled?

What's holding Twitter back? They've had updates recently.


Safari View Controller can't be branded to fit with Twitter's app design.


>What's holding Twitter back?

Their desire for advertising revenue perhaps.


...then we'd still have users complaining about app developers taking away their freedoms!


And try changing the default browser on your iPad - not possible. I don't know why Apple gets away with anti-competitive behavior that MS was hauled over the coals for two decades ago.


Because Apple is very far from being a monopoly.


You don't have to be a monopoly to have anti-competitive behavior, like disallowing competitors to compete with you in a market that has sizable market share, even if you own that market.

For example, if they banned any non Apple apps in the Apple App Store, there's still ~60% of the market in other stores (Google Play/Windows Store), but that still isn't allowed and is very anti-competitive.


Try obtaining a different browser on your iThing. It can't be done (unless you build one and sideload it through Xcode, or jailbreak). There are "third-party browsers" out there, but they all use the same engine as Safari, by decree of Apple.

However, the reason why Apple gets away with it while Microsoft doesn't should be obvious if you're at all familiar with Microsoft's history and current market share numbers. (Hint: MS got hit for anticompetitive behavior when they owned ~95% of the PC OS market. Apple owns maybe 15% of the world smartphone market.)


Even Microsoft, who should be really ashamed to do it again, only allows Edge browser engine on Windows 10 Phone/Mobile!

IDC released the mobile market share 2015 statistics the other day:

http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS40664915

Android: 81%

iOS: 15%

WinMobile: 2%


Are there any iOS browsers available that can be installed via sideloading that do not use the Safari engine?


It looks like Chromium can build for iOS, although without much of a UI. I'm not sure about Firefox, as their official iOS version (which is just a UI for the WebKit engine, of course) makes it hard to search for.


https://wiki.mozilla.org/Mobile/Gecko-iOS links to https://hg.mozilla.org/users/tmielczarek_mozilla.com/gecko-i... which exists, again without much of a UI. The build instructions are in the wiki.


If I may be permitted a n00b question, what are the advantages and disadvantages if any to having more than one content blocker enabled? When I installed this didn't have to disable Crystal, which I already had. Do they just sort of function in series?


I believe so. You just end up with more rules which slows the process down more and more. Apple tries to be intelligent about it, but at some point if you quadruple the number of rules installed it's probably going to take longer to search them for matches.


Multiple content blockers is a bit of a mess.

I think the first one to reject a specific resource simply wins.

There is no overriding.

There is also no UI to manage multiple blockers. For example it is not possible to add a site to a global whitelist. All blockers have to provide their own UI.

Hopefully this will improve with iOS 10


Spending so much time on a platform that you have no control and is sure to undermine you is a waste of open source project resources. Specially one that is handled indirectly such as mozilla nowadays.

if it were users submitting patches or bugreports, by all means! Spend all the time in the world to make your IOS experience better. But people donate, and the people living off that money choose arbitrarily to spend those resources on IOS, that is just plain irresponsible.


> But people donate, and the people living off that money choose arbitrarily to spend those resources on IOS, that is just plain irresponsible.

Note that when people donate, they're donating to the Mozilla Foundation, an entity that does _not_ work on Firefox directly, but does advocacy, outreach and education work. This is where your donation goes.

Mozilla Corporation (which is solely owned by the Foundation) works on Firefox (Desktop, Android, iOS, Focus, etc), and does not benefit from the donations that are sent to the Foundation. That work is funded almost entirely by revenue generated by partnerships with search providers.

People who want to donate to the corporation do so via patches, bug reports, testing, documentation, evangelism, etc.

(Full-disclosure - I'm a Mozilla Corporation employee, but speaking for myself and not on behalf of the company)


For those saying they can't get it - give it time to propagate through the App Store server caches. Usually it can take a couple hours from a "Ready for Sale" to actually being visible in different regions.


Questions to the people from Mozilla who're here. How or why is this different from efforts like Privacy Badger (from EFF)[1] when you look at what gets blocked, the methodology used to update the blacklist, etc.? Was there any collaboration with other prominent players working in this area (I only see that you're using disconnect's list)?

Please note that I'm not talking about implementation details like the creating and maintaining a content block list for Safari vs. a browser extension on the desktop.

[1]: https://www.eff.org/privacybadger


They're now favoring Firefox branding over Mozilla branding?


Makes sense seeing as they're focus -- no pun intended -- is pretty much Firefox and its various incarnations throughout desktop and mobile. Expanding their most visible brand to include their entire suite of browser based technologies doesn't sound like a bad idea to me.


I'll take "Focus by Firefox" over "Firefox Live 360" any day. ;)


For tech people, Mozilla makes sense. But your average user's probably only heard of Firefox.


Meanwhile, I'm very disappointed in the expectation of abandonment of the email client I've been using for over 10 years.


It's not abandoned, Mozilla are simply not funding development themselves. Like SeaMonkey, it is community-maintained.


Pardon me as I don't understand this blocking analytics or ads thing yet. Wouldn't a small web business which relies on Ad money be killed with this move ? Wouldn't someone who wants to provide content for ad money eventually have to pay Apple some cut for displaying ads on app. Wouldn't it drive the prices of ad as a result which would hurt small business who looks at internet advertising for their growth strategy ?


Small businesses aren't kittens, to be loved and protected regardless of anything. We fight shoplifting even though it disproportionately hurts individuals who rely on this business model - as opposed to big companies that have other, often legal, ways of stealing. We fight it because, like ads, it's a crappy business model.


Imagine if you Twitter ask you to pay per post or per view. Will you still use it ? Would that still be the Twitter we know of ? Many startups have for in their early stage considered ad money as one of their essential revenue stream and have built on it. Imagine if you have to pay everytime a dollar if you want to do a search and a lot more.


I would absolutely pay a monthly subscription for ad-free Twitter or Facebook and some basic analytics.

Edit: well I didn't expect downvotes, it's just an opinion... What's wrong?


You're setting up a false dichotomy. Like advertising, your suggestion is one potential business model, but there are others. Thinking up another business model is a difficult problem, yes. But you can't stop ad blocking. Just like structural engineers have to deal with the fact that metals rust, website maintainers will have to deal with the fact that ad blocking is on its way towards ubiquity.


Imagine if I pay $0.03 per search because that's more accurately how much advertising generates. I'd gladly pay that.


If twitter and google stopped alternatives would emerge without ad-supported business models and life would go on, there's no divine mandate they or what they do be valued at billions or even necessary forever.


I suspect that its a fundamental truth that small business need to be adaptable in order to be successful. If their users dislike the ads enough to put them on blocklists, then an alternative strategy might be in order.


Ads are fine. But Ads that consume vast amount of CPU/memory/mobile-data/battery resources or crash the browser are unacceptable. Also many people dislike ads that follow them around.

So only certain bad ads are bad citizens. Show us traditional ads that worked fine for years - and still do.


Ads are a stupid payment method anyway. It only pays up to a few cents per view at most. What if you want to be paid a little bit more? Overhaul your complete monetizing scheme?


Sorry but ads are a very effective and proven way for a web business to generate revenue. That is all together a different discussion on what is an effective way to monetize your web business. But my question is for small business or startups which already have a revenue and relying on that ad revenue. How will they be affected ?


The bottom has fallen out of the ad market recently. Anyway, content blocking is still opt-in. That means most people will never enable it, and the people who enable it are probably not going to click on your ads anyway. But most importantly, if users are going out of their way to avoid paying you, your business model is plain broken. No point trying to prop it up by banning ad blockers.


I wanted to stay away from the discussion weather ads are effective or not business model. My question was what would happen to the smaller sites who still monetize through ads.


But isn't that the same question? If ads make enough money, then they're "effective". If they don't, they're not.


What is not enough money for you could be enough money for someone else. It is hardly a basis for anyone to judge other's judgement.


Of course. So we can't possibly answer your question. Maybe they will be killed and maybe they won't.

But my point is, it's not Apple's fault at all. It's also hardly the fault of the ad blockers. It's all due to the users who intentionally install them and use them for their browsing. It's the users who are making the decision to block ads.


People should start learning from history. Microsoft tried just that, the launched a curated competitor to the WWW in 1995 along Windows 95 called "The Microsoft Network" (short MSN v1). Bill Gates micropayment per view vision he detailed in his book "The Road Ahead" just didn't work out. The free ads based WWW got very successful, and MSN v1 gone nowhere.

If you want see "The Microsoft Network" in action, watch the following advertisement video from Microsoft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGYcNcFhctc

Last time Google disrupted the bad ads market when the annouced their Google text based ads 10 years ago. Now it's time to disrupt the ads market again, with a better "good" ads concept that is okay for the consumer so that they don't use adblockers.


"Wouldn't a small web business which relies on Ad money be killed with this move ?"

Yup.

"Wouldn't someone who wants to provide content for ad money eventually have to pay Apple some cut for displaying ads on app."

Probably, if they last that long.

"Wouldn't it drive the prices of ad as a result which would hurt small business who looks at internet advertising for their growth strategy ?"

Probably. Keep in mind that most people here don't care about small businesses making money, unless it's raising VC funds.


For those who don't want to wait till this propagates through the App Store CDNs, try

https://itunes.apple.com/app/id1055677337

Or try https://itunes.apple.com/{countrycode}/app/id1055677337 with the two character country code for your country put in the {countryside} placeholder

For example, it would be

https://itunes.apple.com/de/app/id1055677337 for Germany

https://itunes.apple.com/fr/app/id1055677337 for France

https://itunes.apple.com/in/app/id1055677337 for India

and so on


> This was not our choice — Apple has chosen to make content blocking unavailable to third party browsers on iOS

Like, the Firefox authors can't block content in their browser because Apple?


Apple won't let full third party web browsers into iOS, all web browsers have to use the Mobile Safari engine underneath. Apple added ad blockers to iOS but will only permit them in Mobile Safari proper. Third party "browsers" aren't permitted to use the ad blockers you can install in iOS.


Admittedly, I'm quite ignorant of the laws related, but wouldn't this be grounds for an anti-competitive lawsuit (even if the App Store terms specifically say so)?


Those laws only apply to monopolies. Apple doesn't have a monopoly in any market segment, so they engage in quite a few anti-competitive behaviors that would be illegal if they were a monopoly. That's why Microsoft got in trouble for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows even though end users could install any browser they liked while Apple is free to require iOS users only use Mobile Safari or a browser UI running on top of Mobile Safari (Chrome, Firefox, etc on iOS).


"We tested Firefox for iOS very briefly, and it worked just fine. Pages loaded quickly—or rather, they seemed to load just as quickly as Chrome and Safari. Given that Firefox for iOS shares much of the same underlying code as Safari or Chrome for iOS, that isn't surprising."

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/11/firefo...

I'm not sure if this is the reason why, but it may be.


Anyone with knowledge care to compare and contrast this with Antelope [0]?

[0] https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/antelope-free-adblocker/id10...


Can it block 7254k images as well?


This is awesome! If there was a similar blocker for Mac, I'd totally use it. Although, I'm not sure why it is called "Focus".

But hey, this way I can share my Firefox plugin called Focus ( https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/focus-by-caba... ) - it lets you block websites so you can focus on your work :). Also available for Chrome ( https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/focus-by-cabana-la... ) =)


Note that if you search for "Focus" in the app store, you won't get any relevant results in the first several dozen apps. I did "focus ad blocker" and that found it.


Crystal is messing it up these days as I see ads these days with Crystal enabled. I think they are taking money to let ads through. Will Firefox do the same if you get money from Google?


Apparently content-blocking is not enabled for iPad 4th Gen, because I can't any of the apps. A thoroughly useless device.


Looks like AppStore is still updating this in inventory. Might take 30-60 minutes more before we can download.


App is live


Searching for it in the app store on my phone returns nothing. I had to message myself the link to get to it.


They can't build it into firefox on ios but how about building it into firefox on other platforms?


That's what happened? This is the new Tracking Protection feature. By default it's only in private tabs but you can just enable it globally in about:config.


This is totally aimed at Google haha


I can not find it in the Colombian appstore, is it available worldwide?


Now it should be in app store. Downloading now from Russian store


I just hit the App Store in the US and didn't see it yet.


I think not


I can not find this on the german App Store. Does anybody have a link?



can somebody explain why they need to use the Apple APIs to block content in their own software? will apple simply not allow them to put it on the app store otherwise?


"focus must be enabled in settings"

Where in settings is it enabled?


It should guide you through this, but settings > Safari > content blockers, like all others. That'll list blockers installed including this one, toggle to enable whichever you like.


Title should be "iOS" instead of "IOS" (Cisco's router operating system).


Why is it Focus by Firefox and not Focus by Mozilla? Mozilla is the name of the company, Firefox is the name of one of Mozilla's products. So a software program was created by another software program?

This type of illogical branding is becoming typical of Mozilla these days. It's a shame because the web really needs browser leadership from an organization that isn't a multinational corporation.


"Firefox" is a much better known brand than "Mozilla".

Mozilla are not only using the "Firefox" brand for a single application, but also for other solutions which are related to Web browsing in one way or another (e.g. Firefox OS). "Made by the same people who make Firefox" is a great presentation card. You can not expect people to have intricate knowledge of the IT sector before deciding if one add-on is trustworthy or not.

And if Mozilla ever want to include a content-blocker in Firefox proper, well, they already have a name for it.


I mean no offense, but out of all complaints I've heard about Mozilla's work on Hacker News, this is probably the stupidest. What the web really needs is less vitriol against those that actually do something.


The web needs fewer people using "vitriol" to refer to any kind of criticism.


Not really. This irks people (rational or not) who are put off by inconsistencies with naming and branding. I understand why the Firefox brand was chosen, but it feels "messy". We'll get over it.


Please explain why on such a project announcement that parent comment is the second one in the thread (instead of technical discussions, platform limitations, privacy, trackers, alternatives, you know, things that would actually make sense). I'm having a hard time right now to not liken HN to a cesspool and this time the offense is intended.


Probably because Firefox is a well known brand and Mozilla isn't.


And even worse, it's for (and only works with) Safari, not Firefox.


Content blockers are only supported in Safari, per Apple.


Safari and anything using the Safari View Controller. Which is, admittedly, a bit limited to use for a full custom browser.

The faster JS engine was also limited to Safari for a few iOS versions before it was extended to third-party applications, so perhaps they're taking the same approach here.

It's worth noting that they could also integrate their own ad blocking into their custom browser, which other third-party iOS browsers have been doing for years.


Didn't know it also applied in the safari view controller. +1 Informative.


Yes. It just seems misleading to say "by Firefox" for the majority of users, who don't know that.


It feels excessive to call this misleading. The web browser team within Mozilla must be pretty well placed to be significant in creating an app for mobile web browser experiences.


Maybe that's hopefulness that Apple reverses its decision.

"Why doesn't Focus by Firefox work on Firefox?" is an amusing and fair question for Apple.


That's true, I was wondering myself why it wasn't "by Mozilla."


What? When is someone going to sue Apple? Why would anyone even create a browser on iOS with all the restrictions?


IANAL, but I'm not sure anyone would have a legal leg to stand on.

Microsoft's legal troubles about bundling IE were possible because MS was ruled to have a monopoly position in desktop PCs.

Apple has around 14% of the smartphone market, by no means a monopoly. Their share gets even smaller when you look at the total cellphone market.

To the best of my knowledge, there isn't anything illegal about using product A to promote product B, or having a restricted platform.

You need some other trigger, such as having a dominant market position, or collusion between vendors, etc..


> When is someone going to sue Apple?

For what? Not writing an API so that their software that runs on 15% of phones works the way you want it to? Good luck.

> Why would anyone even create a browser on iOS with all the restrictions?

The same reason anyone creates a browser for any platform. Because people use it.


> The same reason anyone creates a browser for any platform. Because people use it.

I wouldn't use a browser that was crippled like most people... Actually, I'd move to a different platform.


That's fine, do what works for you. Many don't care though, and browser vendors are happy to cater to them as well.


There are no legal breaches here. Apple's platform, Apple's rules.

I have no idea. I don't create browsers for that and many other reasons. Any browser on iOS is still using Safari webkit underneath anyway so there isn't much point.


> There are no legal breaches here. Apple's platform, Apple's rules.

That hasn't been the case for Google...

> I have no idea. I don't create browsers for that and many other reasons. Any browser on iOS is still using Safari webkit underneath anyway so there isn't much point.

That is another ridiculous restriction...


Apple isn't stopping you from making a web browser. The "restriction" is that the development tools are still going to use the same underlying web engine. You can make all the browsers you want, but you couldn't, for example, create a web browser using Mozilla's engine. It would still report itself as webkit/Safari.


> That hasn't been the case for Google...

On what platform? Google in web search is a monopoly, Google or Apple in Smartphones are not. That matters for most of these things.


"Firefox" is the brand normal people recognize, and Mozilla has been shedding things that aren't Firefox for quite some time now.


The number of people who recognize the Firefox brand vastly outnumber the people who recognize the Mozilla brand. It makes complete sense.


A 7MB png on that page (4418x3206) - that'll be the first thing I want to block…


Actually you won't since it doesn't provide the option to block images. I have yet to find the content blocker that does what I want, block everything by default let me whitelist individual features for individual sites (images, js from same domain, js from external domains). If anyone knows one that does this, please let me know. I'm willing to pay.


Seriously, there has to be a better was to embed image.


That 7MB png should be a jpg :)

Here I fixed it for you http://s27.postimg.org/pupcpnbkh/focus_blog.jpg

And it's still 7x larger then it needs to be.


Fwiw, Focus by Firefox allows ads on this postimg page. There's a pop up ad and banners at the top and bottom. Reloading the page redirects to another URL as if I had clicked an ad.


So you're judging the quality of an iOS app on how well-optimised the images on its website are?

This is not a website you're going to visit regularly, or probably even more than once (except to show all your friends how badly optimised this image is).

Based on this logic, I probably shouldn't have bought the car I have now, because the brochure was printed on really thick paper.


I see no quality-judging in that comment.


> So you're judging the quality of an iOS app on how well-optimised the images on its website are?

Yes. If you can't judge an app based on its website, why would anyone make a pretty, usable website? Its trivial to downsize that image based on browser or os.


Sounds neat. Would really enjoy installing and trying this out.

However, I can't for the life of me find it. Here's what I tried: -Searching for "focus" in the app store. Unsurprisingly, a thousand things came up that were not this.

-Searching for "focus firefox". No results.

-Searching for "focus by firefox". No results.

-In hopes that the article might have a link to the app in the app store, going to that in my phone's browser. No Luck.

-Googling "focus firefox" and looking in various news articles. Found a link in venture beat but it said the item I'm looking for isn't available in the US store.

Hopefully it will be easier to find when it gains some traction?


We literally just clicked the "release" button in the last five minutes. The blog post went out a bit early.


[flagged]


wow. How does someone owe you something that didn't even exist an hour ago? Is it really so hard to wait for technology to do its thing?

edit: took out an unnecessary 'with'


It maybe that your iPhone is not compatible with this app. I have iPhone 5c and I can't install it. Focus is supporting iPhone 5s and newer.


I appreciate the suggestion - I have a 5s though and have used other ad blockers, I guess it just hasn't propagated yet.


It is annoying. I had to search for Firefox itself, and click "related"


"Focus Mozilla" worked for me.


I just found out Scott Weiland died by searching "focus by firefox".


I just found out that Scott Weiland died by reading this comment.


And why I would never buy an iOS device.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10696422 and marked it off-topic.


Do feel free to frequent all stories about iOS and continue to spread the word about your buying preferences. It is a wonderful use of your time.


Just like the grandparent spread the word about his browser preferences....?


it seems nearly impossible to believe that you honestly feel that the OP and the reply are talking about the same topic. One is discussing experiences with the platform discussed in the article, and one is the "I don't even have a tv" comment in another guise. In case it isn't clear to you, "I don't even have a tv" doesn't contribute anything to the conversation.


It seems nearly impossible to believe that you don't think they are talking about the same topic. One is discussing a platform, and the other is stating why he won't use that platform. I respectfully disagree that it's not contributing.


The contribution is "this person does not use iOS" which is not particularly helpful in any way, and has resulted in an off-topic metabranch. This is the very definition of not contributing to the discussion.


The contribution is an implied "I think that stance by the manufacturer is ridiculous, and I won't even engage them." It's helpful because it highlights the ridiculousness of the manufacturers system. Sure, it could have been articulated better, but I think it's still contributing.

> which is not particularly helpful in any way, and has resulted in an off-topic metabranch

I would say that your statement has done more to forward this metabranch than the original statement ever did.


I do the same for stories about systemd.

The target market for the comment was fence-sitters, or people that aren't iOS addicts that were brought to the comments by the word "firefox".

To paraphrase Gabe from penny arcade[0]: You'd like to judge the comment, wouldn't you, critics? but you can't. it's not for you.

0. http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/24/


So basically, this is going to lead to a rise in "Sponsored Content".


Hasn't it already? ;)


If Nick is really the one who wrote that piece, it's sad that the Vice President of Firefox doesn't know about image resizing and optimization.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10696460 and marked it off-topic.


That's quite a leap just to get to an ad hominem attack.

The way we have WordPress configured should have handled this automagically. I'll look into why it didn't.


I wasn't trying to personally attack the guy, it was just surprising that an article by one of the heads of a major tech company wouldn't have something basic like that taken care of.

I'd recommend the tinypng plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/tinypng-for-wp/), which will do the optimization (though not resizing) automatically for you.

Edit - More downvotes, someone is having a tough morning.


Their content management system should ideally do it for them, minor point but yeah.


Yes, CMS should do lossless optimizations no question. The problem here is that this is a photographic image, saved as a PNG, when it really should be a JPEG. Converting to JPEG is a lossy optimization, in addition to offering different features. It's risky to have a general "convert PNGs to JPEG" or even "convert all non-transparent PNGs to JPEG" optimization rules built into your build process or as a CMS plugin

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