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Pop-up adverts inventor apologises for making the "internet's original sin"


Not again...

Pop-up adverts are the bane of many web surfers' lives. Now the inventor of the form has apologised for creating what he refers to as "one of the most hated tools in the advertiser's toolkit".

Between 1994 and 1999, Ethan Zuckerman worked for Tripod.com, a website designed to market content and services to recent college graduates. Various business models failed to catch on, and the only way they could make money was through advertising.

"At the end of the day, the business model that got us funded was advertising," Zuckerman wrote in an article for The Atlantic. "The model that got us acquired was analysing users' personal homepages so we could better target ads to them.

"Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser's toolkit: the pop-up ad. It was a way to associate an ad with a user's page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page's content…

"I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it," he goes on. "I'm sorry. Our intentions were good."

Is there any way out of the ad-led internet we've created? Zuckerman thinks so. Instead of bombarding us with adverts, and handing over all our data to be manipulated by the likes of Facebook and OK Cupid, websites should start charging for access, and protecting users' data, he reckons.

Would you pay to visit your favourite websites? Let us know via the comments section below.

Go to comments


August 15, 2014, 2:48 pm

No, I would not pay. But, *if* ads were well executed then I'd welcome them. I like to look at or read the interesting ads in magazines. They are automatically relevant because, if I'm reading a photography magazine then I am interested in photographic stuff, etc. No profiling or cookies required, no pop-ups or jumpers or scrollers or screamers either. Web advertising has chased after bells and whistles just because it can, and pi55ed off its own audience as a result.

Prem Desai

August 16, 2014, 3:43 am

Yes. I would pay a nominal charge. That way, sites like Facebook become accountable to us and not do what they want.

Same for email, if each email cost something like £0.01, it would not affect anyone (except spammers) and all junk mail would disappear in an instant.


August 16, 2014, 9:06 am

I'm not sure that the worst spammers use their own account to send email, and I don't suppose they would care much if somebody else is paying.

Matthew Bunton

August 16, 2014, 9:18 am

Ad Block. I use it for general surfing and just disable it on the sites I like such as this one. Therefore, I still support the sites I like but am not bombarded from ads and pop ups whilst generally surfing the web.

Nick Frost

August 16, 2014, 9:17 pm

I would not pay. There is no reason for me to pay for something that is digital if I am not getting a tangible product. For example, refusing to "upgrade" my magazine subscription to a digital one.

More to the point though, just use get an ad blocker and leave it on all the time. Problem solved. IMO, there are no ads worth looking at. And if a website needs money, they should find some other way.


August 18, 2014, 9:08 am

I use ad block too, but I believe its a selfish necessity and not a good solution to the problem. Whilst it obviously works for the individual using it, it doesn't help the industry. If ad-blocking was comprehensively taken up, the support from advertising that the web is built on would fall away. It would be better if advertisers could just learn some self control.

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