Laura Kalbag

The future of Better Blocker

Aral has written a detailed blog post about the logistics of moving our app, Better Blocker, to our Irish organisation.

In brief: we have to re-publish the app under Small Technology Foundation, which means anyone who wants to get future updates to the app will have to buy it again. (Though the previous version of the app will still be able to receive updates to the blocking rules.) We will lose years of favourable reviews, high rankings in our category, and a feature on the Safari App Extensions page. It’s immensely frustrating, and we’ve been trying to find a way around it for the last few months. But we can’t. Because we have to play by Apple’s rules. Read all of Aral’s post on his blog.

Blocking rule updates

One of the features that makes Better unique is that we curate our own list of blocking rules. Our focus is on blocking trackers, and we do so based on our principles of ethical design. This means we don’t block non-tracking ads, and when people report sites that break with Better, or have trackers we’ve not blocked yet, we can update our blocking rules accordingly.

Doing this work takes time, and while Aral does most of the work on the apps, I do most of the work on the blocking rules. I investigate every tracker to work out what it’s doing (and what it might do with your personal data!), write the rules, and push the updated block list out to everyone who uses Better. We provide these updates for free, and for a one-off App Store payment, it’s a bargain.

You can read about all our blocking rule updates on the Better news page. And if you do, you’ll notice that the second half of 2019 was slow for me. I was ill a lot last year, and had to prioritise the work that was paying more of the bills. And I felt like a horrible failure to all the people who had bought the apps.

Blocking rules in 2020

But 2020 is a new year, and I’m starting it feeling the best I have in ages. Aral and I have been discussing our options with Better, given that we are also working on other, more long-term, plans to make our work sustainable. We really care about Better being the best it can be for the people who have bought the apps. With this in mind, we’re aiming for less frequent but more regular blocking rule updates. We aim to update the blocking rules every month, running more mass inspections of sites to be more efficient in blocking the most prevalent trackers.

Thank you to our supporters

Finally, thank you to the folks who discovered our work through Better and went on to support us with regulation donations. For years we’ve talked about making Better a subscription-based app, but the development work required has exceeded the potential benefits. Our patrons have effectively supported blocking rule updates for everybody else (alongside the rest of our work), and we really appreciate their generosity.