Category Archives: Security

Firefox for iOS Updated for Speed

Mozilla said it has seen millions of downloads since it released a long-awaited mobile version of its Firefox Web browser for Apple devices in November. Now the company has rolled out an update with what it said are “some big improvements.”

Released yesterday, the latest version of Firefox for iOS features changes aimed at making the browser faster, more flexible and easier to use, according to vice president of Firefox Product Nick Nguyen. For instance, the new browser reduces the impact on processors and memory by double digits, he said.

Writing yesterday on the Mozilla Blog, Nguyen said the new Firefox for iOS received a significant speed boost thanks to the efforts of summer engineer intern Tyler Lacroix. Those improvements will enable users to access Web pages faster with less battery drain, he said.

“In Tyler’s testing, he saw up to 40% reduction in CPU usage and up to 30% reduction in memory usage when using this latest version of Firefox,” Nguyen said yesterday. “Of course, all devices and humans are different so results may vary. Either way, we are psyched to roll out these improvements to you today.”

Another change arriving with this update is a new menu on the Firefox toolbar designed to make it easier for iOS users to add bookmarks, search for text on Web pages and access other frequently used features, Nguyen said. “Navigation in iOS browsers is a huge pain point for users who have come to expect the same seamless experience that’s available on their desktop or laptop,” he said.

Ad blocking: You don’t need to be afraid of the big bad wolf

There is a fear gripping the publishing and advertising industries over ad blocking, and it is the result of misguided perceptions of the harm ad-blocking could do, rather than the very real opportunities the technology presents us with.

By now we’re all familiar with the rising howls of those bemoaning the demise of online and mobile ads.

But when you step back from the fearful narrative, it becomes apparent that the big bad wolf we call ad blocking is, in fact, creating some good little changes in advertising.

Stop and think for a moment about where ad blocking comes from.

Users are huffing and puffing

Ad blocking is not new. It’s a technology created as a reaction to the nuisance of online ads, too many of which are unwelcome, irrelevant and a distraction from the user’s experience.

So start there: ad blocking is not a phantom menace. It’s a problem created by not being creative enough. We didn’t push ourselves hard enough to find better ways to engage so the user got ticked-off and found a way to block us.

But for advertisers and publishers being in a position where the user has told us what they do and don’t like shouldn’t be scary – it’s liberating and the ad industry is evolving as a result.

Creative is getting better, our ability to deliver unique messages in the moment is getting better, real-time bidding, or RTB, helps monetize ad content in more ways. The point is: we shouldn’t be wary of ad-blocking, we should be celebrating it.

But that doesn’t mean the road ahead will be easy.

Early missteps

Crafting tailored messages takes effort – you have to know your inventory and audience and the timing must be right. Early missteps are understandable. Many traditional agencies dove-in headfirst without guidance, buying traffic and display ads that don’t match their audience – a recipe for failure.

The initial need for publishers to monetise their properties led to ill-conceived and ubiquitous advertising. The result was fatigue, a decline in user attention, and loss of goodwill, leaving users with less tolerance and trust.

And along came ad-blocking.

Successful campaigns communicate the benefits of a product without pushing incentivizing right off the bat. Rather than a spray-and-pray approach, precision is key. Offer fewer, more refined messages: ads that enhance the user experience rather than intrude and distract from engagement with the content.

This is not the ‘Adblockalyse’ as some have worried, but rather a chance for marketers to refine their strategy. Now there is an opportunity to craft a specific approach instead of sticking to a one-size-fits-all ad buy that comes across as an afterthought.

The reality is ad blocking is simply a technical tool – one that early adopters are more likely to feel comfortable using. To date, only a comparatively small number of users have the wherewithal and inclination to seek out and install ad blockers. Rather than banning those who do, perhaps we should ask why they’re choosing to block.

Just like spam email blocking before it, consider the motivation behind the behaviour. People didn’t want their inboxes cluttered with messages irrelevant to them, but they also didn’t want the useful ones to be filtered out.

It’s the same with ads. If the audience is bombarded with irrelevant ads the more likely they will look for ways to cut out the noise. Give them something they can use and the less likely they will be to opt out.

Ad blockers are actually a marketing opportunity

Henry Ford once said that, before making automobiles mainstream, if he’d asked people what they wanted they’d have said faster horses – in other words, consumer sentiments aren’t always aligned to true objectives.

In a similar vein, advertisers and publishers need to set aside the noise around ad blocking and instead pay attention to the opportunity signalled in the behaviour.

The International News Media Association has been around since the 1930s and represents the industry threatened by the potential of ad blocking. Its research found that ad block users are disproportionately male millennials motivated by a desire to reduce ad volume and page clutter causing an interruption of their user experience.

Surprisingly, the report points out that ad blockers could represent a “premium audience segment for marketing communications if publishers simplify their ad offerings”.

The report goes on to suggest these users are a tech savvy and desirable demographic for many advertisers and publishers. It also suggests a more measured approach with “respectful ads” could be well-received and, going forward, ad blocking will be good for the industry by forcing a move to more creative, contextual ads that consumers won’t rebel against.

In summary, ad blocking technologies are misperceived.

Rather than something to be feared like the big bad wolf, ad blockers are a clear indication that there are hungry users out there just waiting to be fed something they like.



Samsung trolls Google, adds adblockers to phones

Samsung has added built-in ad-blocking capabilities to its Android browser in its latest OTA (over-the-air) update to its Lollipop 5.0 devices, which include the Galaxy S6.

Samsung’s internet browser now supports third-party ad-blockers such as Adblock Fast. Firefox’s browser supports ad-blocking plug-ins, while to firewall unwanted traffic across the system, Android users need to root their devices, or install NoRoot Firewall.

Apple heralded the much vaunted “adpocalypse” by adding support for ad-blockers in Safari in its iOS9 update last year. Advertising spending on mobile campaigns is increasing more rapidly than other digital formats, in part because it has been harder to block advertising on mobile devices. Publishers have begun to fight back passive-aggressively, refusing to serve content to browsers with an active ad-blocker. The least passive, and most aggressive, was Alphabet (Google) itself: it took technical countermeasures against YouTube ad-blockers, and forced those attempting to block video ads to watch even longer video ads.

Alphabet develops and controls Android, and is almost entirely dependent on advertising for its revenue, which gained it $18.7bn in income in the most recent quarter, clearing $4.6bn in profit. Even with its significant research spending on toy robots (eg, balloons, drones and driverless cars), Google still has a hard time spending the proceeds; Alphabet is on course to hold $200bn in cash and assets by the end of the calendar year.

Earlier this month Oracle disclosed Google’s estimate that it had earned a profit of $22bn on Android, on revenue of $32bn. Google successfully applied to have the figures deleted from the record.

So will Samsung’s move accelerate the “adpocalypse”? Perhaps not as much as you might initially think. Samsung remains the No.1 Android vendor, and has only just slipped behindApple in total smartphone shipments. But Chrome still dominates mobile browsing, with 41.57 per cent share so far in January 2016, and Chrome’s rise has been consistently steady.

Much depends on the agencies themselves. If mobile ads are generally viewed as degrading the user experience significantly, and if every mobile browser except Google’s Chrome allows ad-blockers, then Google has a real problem.



Google Took Down 780m Bad Ads In 2015

Google dealt with a record number of malicious or damaging advertising during 2015 as continued its crackdown against cybercrime.

The company blocked 780 million bad adverts last year, a major increase from the 524 million blocked during 2014, for violating its policies.

A team of more than a thousand are employed by Google in the battle against bad ads, and the firm has invested in specialist technology to help the cause.

Going in to more detail, Google reported that it blocked more than 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts for attempting to sell counterfeit goods.

It also blocked more than 12.5 million ads that violated its healthcare and medicines policy, such as ads for pharmaceuticals that weren’t approved for use or that made misleading claims to be as effective as prescription drugs.

More than 10,000 sites offering unwanted software were also blocked, reducing unwanted downloads via Google ads by more than 99 percent.

The company also stepped up its efforts to fight phishing sites in 2015, blocking nearly 7,000 sites as a result, and also rejected more than 17 million ads that were designed to look like system warnings from a user’s computer.

The new restrictions also applied to mobile ads, which became an increasingly popular way for companies to target consumers during 2015.

Google says that it stopped showing ads on more than 25,000 mobile apps because the developers didn’t follow its policies – the majority of which concerned practices such as mobile ads placed very close to buttons, causing someone to accidentally click the ad.

Overall, Google rejected more than 1.4 million applications from sites and mobile apps that want to show Google ads but don’t follow its policies

“We’re always updating our technology and our policies based on your feedback—and working to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters,” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s SVP of ads & commerce.

“In 2016, we’re planning updates like further restricting what can be advertised as effective for weight loss, and adding new protections against malware and bots. We want to make sure all the ads you see are helpful and welcome and we’ll keep fighting to make that a reality.”


New Browser Offers ‘Brave’ Solution To Ad Blocking, Literally: Will Cut Users And Publishers In

At a time when both Madison Avenue and the digital publishing community it depends on are struggling to find a solution to the potentially existential threat of ad blocking, one of the Internet’s most visionary developers is introducing a new browser and a bold economic model that could transform the economics of digital advertising. The platform, which is being unveiled this morning by Mozilla founder and former CEO Brendan Eich, is called Brave. It lives up to its name by introducing a new model that bypasses conventional ad serving and redirects ad placements on users’ browsers with ones generated by Brave and its partner, independent SSP Sonobi.

The concept is not entirely new. So-called “ad injector” models that effectively block ads sold by publishers and redirect them to ads sold by the software developer have been around for years, but generally they have been exploited by nefarious characters operating on the fringe of the digital ad industry’s grey market, and their models generally are not made explicit to users that download their software.

What’s different about Brave’s approach is that it is making its bypass-and-redirect model 100% explicit to users, advertisers, agencies and publishers — and most importantly, offering to cut them all in on the revenue it generates.

“The revenue is not only shared with the publishers, but a small slice will go to our users,” Eich explained in a briefing to Real-Time Daily, adding that the amount of the revenue going direct to users is “probably not going to buy them a free dinner,” but it is a recognition that they are part of the economic process.

The main reason he believes users will embrace the model is that it is a new permission-based way for them to redirect money back to their favorite publishers, because Brave will apportion the majority of the revenue it derives to publishers based on a user’s browsing preferences.

“It’s a way to pay for my top 20 sites without having to go through a pay wall,” Eich said.

Brave is also exploring pay-wall models that would enable users to pay publishers directly, because the point of the new browser platform is to give its users more control and a better experience than they’ve been getting from current and previous browsers, as well as finding an economic solution to ad blocking.

Among the browsers Brave will be competing with is Mozilla, the company Eich helped found after pioneering some of the Internet’s most important software, including JavaScript when he worked at seminal browser company Netscape. Eich, who stepped down as CEO of Mozilla nearly two years ago following a backlash surrounding a small personal donation he made to California’s controversial anti-gay Proposition 8, is committed to developing the next generation of user browsing experiences, and Brave has several technical element to it that promise to transform the way people use the Internet.

He claims that the browser software itself is better, faster and more state-of-the-art in terms of loading pages for users than any of the current versions of other popular browsers from Mozilla, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. But Eich says the browser is also attached to two components that differentiate the user experience from others, including a “data vault” for each user, as well as a “digital wallet” leveraging digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin for transactions.

Eich did not elaborate on how users would leverage their data vault in the beta version of Brave’s software, but he was explicit about the role of the wallet and Bitcoin as a transactional currency, calling it a “frictionless medium” for transferring money earned from selling the ads it redirects its users to.

The biggest question in Brave’s model is how publishers and users will react to it. While users will gain more control by becoming part of the economics supporting their favorite publishers, the model is being undertaken without the explicit consent of publishers.

“Basically, we’re just dropping money on them to the extent that users visit our system,” Eich explains, adding that Brave’s goal is not to become a new ad blocker, but to give users control over the advertising experience and enable them to become explicit stakeholders in underwriting their favorite publishers.

In its initial version, Eich says revenue derived by selling ads through Brave will be split four ways: 15% each will be distributed to the user, to Sonobi and to Brave, with 55% allocated to publishers.

Eich says he hopes to eventually get the share of revenue allocated to publishers up to the 30%/70% revenue-sharing model popularized by Apple, with 70% going to publishers and the rest divided among the other stakeholders.

Brave is still working out the logistics of the payment system. Sonobi, which has deep relationships with many publishers, will no doubt play a role, but the concept, according to Eich, is that the publisher’s share will be deposited as Bitcoin currency into a digital wallet that each publisher will have their own secure key for accessing.

How publishers might react to the benevolent approach wasn’t clear at presstime, but it is one of the models being suggested by many industry thought leaders. It was among the ideas discussed at the Media Future Summit organized by MediaPost columnist Bob Garfield, The Wharton School, and MediaPost on Oct. 30, 2015, and is one of the topics of a new white paper series being published by them.

As for making consumers a direct party and cutting them in on the advertising they are exposed to, that model has also been gaining in interest, especially with the rise of ad blocking. The concept was also one of the “Top 7 Trends to Help Brands Target the New Consumer in 2016,” according to a new report from Omnicom’s Interbrand and Ready Set Rocket.

Eich says Brave is working with one of the big ad agencies on piloting the new model, and it will begin speaking with other agencies and advertisers based on their interest in testing it.


Traffic Duplication Might Be A Bigger Problem Than Ad Fraud

“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Oded Poncz, founder and chief technology officer at Ubimo.

With mobile ad spending set to top $30 billion, can anything get in the way of this channel?

I see one potential obstacle: traffic duplication. While the practice is neither illegal nor prohibited, this behavior threatens to limit mobile advertising’s potential. For advertisers to feel comfortable increasing their ad spend on mobile, there needs to be an industrywide move toward greater transparency to prevent the kinds of practices that obscure results and decrease the level of trust between advertisers and ad tech vendors.

In a perfect world, the mobile ad-buying supply chain should work like this: Publishers describe their available inventory to a single ad exchange, which in turn auctions it off to many possible buyers represented by demand-side platforms (DSPs). The winning DSP subsequently serves an ad to the end user.

In practice, however, every party in the chain can split the same bid into a few bids, which may each look different, as part of a back-handed effort to maximize profits. They could be publishers, which would prefer to select the highest winning bid to increase the value of their ad inventory, or an exchange that has been unable to auction an ad space and therefore either re-auctions it on another exchange to fill the inventory or re-auctions the same request under another ad space. Sometimes a DSP re-auctions ad inventory by taking low-cost inventory, such as a JavaScript ad space, and repurposing it for sale as video inventory.

Inevitably, those on the demand side have the most to lose because they will pay higher prices and see more traffic, but without additional inventory. They’re just bidding against themselves. But traffic duplication is an industrywide problem that affects everyone.

The Cost Of This Inefficiency

Bid duplication costs more in terms of traffic by representing a single user as two separate users and removing the ability to cap ads served in line with advertisers’ wishes. A single app will send an ad request to more than one exchange. Each exchange has its own identification system for naming applications and will have a different unique name for each app.

A DSP might see two bid requests that seem to be coming from two different applications. In some cases where exchanges use different user identification methodologies, each bid request seems to originate from two different end users, which makes it impossible to remove duplicates. While this doesn’t fall into the category of ad fraud because this practice is not illegal, bid duplication has introduced highly unwanted inefficiency.

Another side effect of bid request duplication is that re-auctioning a bid takes time. In some cases, this could even become apparent to the end user. For example, if an end user is waiting for an interstitial ad to be shown upon opening an application, while behind the scenes there are a few auctions taking place for the same ad space, this will result in the user waiting considerably longer until they’re able to access their content.

This doubling of ad requests also adds to the overall latency in the ad ecosystem. If all this duplication means an ad takes five seconds to load, that makes for a poor consumer experience. No wonder so many users want to block mobile ads.

Time To Wake Up

The solution we need to restore trust in all parties involved in the buying and selling of mobile ads is greater transparency. If companies are going to persist in repackaging inventory that nobody wanted, they should be upfront about that. If an ad space is supposed to host JavaScript, it should never be described as a video spot. Transparency will allow all companies in the value chain to make better decisions on which traffic to buy or drop, while also rooting out behaviors that do not bring value to the market.

Some vendors are now taking action. In November, LiveRail, Facebook’s video ad exchange, pulled some of its inventory, which it claims will clean up proliferating layers of bids coming through some sources. While this will have short-term effects on LiveRail’s available inventory, I believe this investment will strengthen LiveRail’s long-term publisher offering.

There is no reason we wouldn’t want to stop traffic duplication. Traffic duplication has a negative effect across the entire mobile ad industry. Enhanced efficiency and increased trust will not incur costs for companies that operate transparently. Rather, better practices will boost trust and stability in an industry that will only continue to become more important.



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