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Pop-up Ads – How it All Started

While browsing the internet once in a while you will come across flashing boxes of terror... yes I am talking about the good old pop-up ads. They practically take up space on literally every webpage you visit. Even the man who created them has apologised to the world about his creation that has plagued the World Wide Web.  

 

Ethan Zuckerman created the code for pop-up ads more than 20 years ago and regrets doing so to this day. In the mid 90's Zuckerman was a designer and programmer for Tripod.com. Tripod are a website that marketed content and other services to graduates. But they later changed their market plan due to their original idea failed to take off, and instead became a webpage hosting provider. They tried to keep the business going with selling merch and providing a subscription service, but none of it really took off – their main success lied in advertising. This is where it all began...  

 

Zuckerman was tasked with analysing users' personal homepages and were figuring out how to better target ads to them. Along the way of coming up with ideas to help target ads, he created the pop-up ads we all know and 'love' today.   

 

Pop-up ads were created to be a way of associating ads with a user's page without having to put the advert directly onto the page itself. This was due to the fact that advertisers were worried that directly posting an ad to a page would imply an association between their brand and the page's content. Zuckerman stated 'Specifically, we came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.'   

 

With this pop-up ads were born!  

 

Zuckerman now works for the centre for civic media at MIT and believes that "advertising is the original sin of the internet". He believes that sites such as Facebook should have an ad free site where users can pay a small subscription fee for.   

 

Even today advertisers are still using pop-up ads as a means of advertising. The older types of pop-up ads that open new windows are now virtually dead, but advertisers have gotten clever and have started to use overlay models instead. These ads basically overlay the pop-up ad onto the original webpage. The ads can also be programmed to open up after a set amount of time and even be set to open when you complete certain actions such as moving your cursor next to the backspace. They may have changed slightly in design, but they are still a nuisance when users are browsing through the internet as they are forced to find the sometimes almost invisible 'x' that will close the boxes of sin.   

 

The surprising thing is that pop-up ads are extremely effective at collecting emails and increasing click-through-rates... As long as people are still using them, pop-up ads are here to stay.

 

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