Ad blocker apps have been hitting the headlines over the last few months, and whilst on the surface a way of blocking annoying advertisements seems great, we all need to consider if this is really in our best interests.

Marco Arment came under fire from Internet publishers after his adblocking iOS app topped the download charts almost instantly. He was accused of making money from his $2.99 app whilst potentially putting online publishers out of business.

Arment then removed the app from sale, stating that the issue of online advertising is a complex one and one that needs more than a simple iOS app to sort out.

So what’s the problem? Ads can be annoying, they can get in your way, so what harm are you doing by opt-ing out?

Well, just take a minute to think about how many websites you use. Now think about how many of those you pay for. I don’t expect it’s many, if any. The majority of free websites – especially ones serving up content such as tutorials or funny stories and pictures – are funded by advertising. If you use a free service that’s ad free, it’s probably got a premium tier, so some people are paying even if you aren’t, and you’re lucky enough to just ride off the back of that for the time being.

Unless you’re in the industry you might not realise how much it costs to run a website. Yes, lots of people do it for the love of it, and hosting can be cheap. But if your site is popular, hosting gets expensive. And if you want to produce good content, you might be paying people to write it or you might at least be doing it as a day job which needs to pay the rent. And that’s before you consider the actual coding / design time required to keep a website fresh with new features.

Meanwhile, advertising industry experts are calling for better quality ads – as lets face it, you might even share a good, funny creative advertisement. Mobile advertising strategists Mapp Media claim the huge popularity of tools such as the browser plugin Adblock demonstrates “that most adverts are badly targeted and delivered to an audience that has little or no interest in the branding…. it is always an indication that advertisers need to focus on high-quality content and on improving the way campaigns are created and delivered.”

So let’s hope all this talk of ad blocking forces publishers to up their game, and before we all rush to block ads, perhaps we should consider if really, we could just ignore any we aren’t interested in and help keep the free Internet alive.