Fed up with internet annoyances? This one blocker ruled them all
The latest entry in our classic iPhone apps series aimed to tame the internet, by blocking things you didn’t want to see.
What was 1Blocker?
One of the first wave of Safari extensions for iPhone and iPad. It gave you a wide array of tools for blocking various content types while browsing.
Why was it a classic?
Rival apps tended to be install-and-forget. They worked or they didn’t. 1Blocker had options. Lots of options. That could have been intimidating, but friendly interface design balanced power and usability. Moreover, the app’s flexibility gave those who wanted it fine-grained control over websites, even to the point of switching off specific scripts that were negatively impacting the browsing experience.
Where is it now?
1Blocker remains on the App Store and is a single universal app and subscription for iPhone, iPad and Mac. In our view, it remains the premier tool of its type for all Apple devices.
Q&A: a brief history of 1Blocker
We speak to 1Blocker creator Salavat Khanov about why he made the app and whether browsers should do more to help users tame the web.
Why did you create 1Blocker? And do you remember your response to Apple opening up Safari on iPhone and iPad to extensions?
Salavat: In 2015, I won a WWDC scholarship. That summer, I set a goal to launch a new app by September. I didn’t know what it would be, and I hoped I’d learn something new at WWDC.
At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the new content blocker API and started building a different app. After a month, I thought what I was working on wouldn’t be popular, paused development, and started looking for new and exciting APIs released at WWDC15.
That was a pivotal moment. I realized a content blocker for iPhone would make a big impact, because until then there had been no ad blockers on iOS. But I now had only two months before the public release of iOS 9 to build and ship the app.
What drove the initial feature set of 1Blocker?
I wanted to make 1Blocker the fastest, most powerful content blocker on iOS that – as its name suggests – is the only blocker you’ll ever need. That’s why, from day one, it let users create custom rules that unlock the full potential of Safari’s new content blocker capabilities.
But despite being customizable, I made sure the app was easy to use for everyone. You could turn on blocking just by flicking some switches.
How did you differentiate 1Blocker from the competition?
From the very first version, I cared deeply about the whole experience of using the app. It affects everything, from the filter list optimization to the design and feature set.
The competition mainly focuses on ad blocking, but that’s just one side of content filtering. For example, 1Blocker can block adult sites, which may be useful for parental controls on child devices. And it can block web annoyances, like cookie notices.
How important is it to give users more control over the browsing experience?
The idea of letting users control what they want to see seems obvious. The main reason people install ad blockers is because ads have become too annoying and distract from content.
That being said, there should be a balance between control and simplicity of the browsing experience. You wouldn’t want to overwhelm users with too many features, checkboxes, and options. Sometimes you have to be opinionated about something and make decisions on behalf of users.
For web browsers, it’s also important to consider privacy, so user data doesn’t become compromised through a third-party extension.
Although I have my own wish-list of features for the Safari team, I think Apple’s on the right trajectory in terms of giving app developers tools to build great extensions that improve the browsing experience.
During 1Blocker’s lifetime, what has been your toughest challenge – and biggest success?
The toughest challenge is to stay in the game! This year, 1Blocker marks eight years since its initial launch. It was one of the first apps to offer content blocking on iOS. Many competing apps have since vanished.
The biggest success? That many users who installed 1Blocker years ago are happily using it today.
What is the secret to the app’s longevity, and where would you like it to go next?
Our users and the feedback they send are the reason 1Blocker continues to improve year over year.
As for next steps, I’ve been working for over a year on the biggest 1Blocker update ever. 1Blocker 6.0 will include improvements based on years of our experience and feedback from our wonderful users.