Web Sites Force Pop-ups Past Blockers

March 8, 2008 – 3:45 PM

On the whole, the internet is a good thing for humankind. However, the internet does have its dark side. Everyone with a regular internet connection knows that there is an unholy trinity that threatens to make the internet so unpleasant that people would rather not use it at all. The members of this digital axis of evil are spam, spyware and the pop-up ad.

Nearly every person who surfs the internet regularly hates pop-up ads. Businesses have been boycotted for blanketing the web with pop-ups. When X-10, a company infamous for using pop-up ads, went bankrupt, thousands of people around the world stood up and cheered at their misfortune. Web sites that use pop-ups receive tons of hate mail and lose visitors as people refuse ever to go back.

Advertisers and web site owners say that the people who complain about pop-ups are simply freeloaders, people who want everything for free. If that is true, then explain the multi-million dollar software industry that has sprung up to sell pop-up blocking software. People hate pop-ups so passionately that they are willing to spend thirty or even forty dollars buying software to block them.

The problem of pop-up ads has grown so frustrating that every single web browser now features a pop-up blocker. Even Internet Explorer, a browser whose most current version is over three years old, has been updated to include a pop-up blocker.

With tens of millions of people going to such extraordinary lengths to avoid pop-up ads, you would think the web sites that use them would see that they are driving away visitors and would stop using them. Unfortunately, many site owners simply do not care if they anger their visitors. These sites are experimenting with ways to circumvent pop-up blocking software.

The good blocking programs will block pop-up windows that spring up automatically but will allow pop-up windows that come up as a result of user action. That means if you click on a link and that link activates a pop-up window, the program will allow that window to form. At least one site, that of The Drudge Report, exploits this loophole to pop up ad windows.

Other sites are beginning to use slider ads if they detect that pop-ups are being suppressed. A slider ad uses either javascript or DHTML to cover the content on a web page with an advertisement. It is not a separate window; it is part of the page itself. Very few pop-up blockers deal with slider ads. That is unfortunate because a slider is far more intrusive and annoying than any pop-up ad ever could be. At least you can move a pop-up window out of the way. Sometimes the only way to be rid of a slider ad is either to click it or close the entire window.

I do not understand this mentality. If someone has gone to the trouble of suppressing pop-up ads, why do they believe the answer is to force something even more intrusive upon the visitor? Common sense would say that anyone who deliberately blocks pop-ups is going to react angrily to an advertisement that pops up anyway.

Is this really how a business wants to present its product to a potential buyer, by enraging that person? Does Acme Widgets really believe Joe Surfer is going to buy a widget because their advertisement defied Joe’s efforts to block it?

What Joe is going to do is to close that advertisement. If Acme Widgets is lucky, Joe will never see the content of the advertisement. If they are unlucky, Joe will note the product being pitched and will vow never to buy anything from that company. In either case, he is unlikely ever to return to that abusive web site.

That is really the only way we ever will be rid of pop-up ads. Pop-ups are like spam. They exist because foolish people buy the products being pitched in them. If you buy something pitched in a pop-up window or slider ad, even if you merely click the links in the ad, you are directly responsible for their existence.

Never, EVER interact with a pop-up window or slider ad except to close it. Never, EVER interact with spam except to delete it. If people refuse to buy from a pop-up ad and refuse even to click the links, advertisers will stop using them.


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