Apple has been slowly but steadily phasing out extensions for its own browser Safari. This has mostly affected ad blockers and VPN extensions, neutering them almost completely. But, unlike Google and its plans for Chrome, the Apple has succeeded in removing adblockers without facing any backlash or raising alarms among its users.
To give some context, back in iOS 9 Apple introduced App extensions alongside content blocker, this meant that Apps and Apps extensions could use Safari’s API to tell the browser to block certain kind of web content.
Fast-forwarding to 2018, iOS 12 came out and by then, these two features rendered most of Safari’s extensions obsolete. Eventually, Apple announced that these legacy extensions will be soon deprecated, prompting developers to port their old code to App extensions and publish them on the App Store.
Soon after, its extension gallery stopped supporting legacy extensions, all under the pretext that these extensions were slowing down web browsing on Safari.
Now it’s 2019 and iOS 13 just rolled out. At the same time, on MacOS, Apple put the final nail of the coffin of Safari’s extensions ecosystem, as even the Extension Gallery was ditched out.
Naturally, there were immediate consequences for this decision, many VPNs and adblockers like Adguard, Malwarebytes VPN and uBlock Origin recently shut down their extensions for good.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that is impossible for users to block ads on Safari – they still can, thanks to Content Blocker, but this comes with its caveats, like being unable to whitelist individual pages or domains, not being able to whitelist specific YouTube channels, only having 50,000 filter rules in use at the same time and many other restrictions.
Another alternative is to simply use a different browser with extension support, like Firefox, or Brave.
However, all of this represents more inconveniences for end-users, but no one said a word. Why, you ask? Well, it has to do in part with Apple having an iron fist when it comes to the App Store ecosystem; developers who disagree are usually kicked out.
Nonetheless, the relatively low number of Safari users also has a role in this, since they only account for 3.5% of the market share, while Chrome has 65% of the market share – the reason why it wasn’t able to pull off something similar this year.