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Pop-up adverts inventor apologises for making the “internet’s original sin”

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, 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.

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