Pop-up Advertisements Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Pop-up Advertisements

10 Conversations

It was late at night. Somewhere in the wired world, a man was surfing the Internet. Innocently, he clicked on a link. The page hadn't even finished loading when suddenly, he was assaulted by a barrage of assailants. They weren't armed with guns, or knives, or bats. No, their very existence was an attack on the innocent computer user. They weren't spiders, they weren't small children, they weren't even members of a boy band. Yet they provoked more fear and disgust in the man's soul than can reasonably be described. What were they? Pop-up advertisements.

Granted, the presence of pop-ups isn't usually quite so dramatic. But they (along with their cousins, pop-under adverts, which open in the background and appear when you try to close a window) do constitute a major annoyance to many people.

How Do Pop-ups Work?

Pop-ups are banner advertisements that open in new windows when a website is opened. Pop-ups use JavaScript's window.open command to create new windows containing banner advertisements. Some pop-ups spawn other pop-ups when the user tries to close them, which spawn still more pop-ups and so on, forcing the user to use Ctrl-Alt-Delete (on the PC) to exit his or her browser.

Pop-unders, also called blur pop-ups, are pop-ups that are created behind the open browser window, so the user views them when he or she closes the window.

Timed pop-ups, like pop-unders, can be set to open several seconds after the page loads or is closed. They are used to interrupt the user in the middle of reading a page.

So, Who's at Fault?

Pop-ups are powered by JavaScript, a scripting language developed by Netscape in 1995 and 1996. The pop-up, created in early 1997, takes advantage of the window.open command in JavaScript1.

Pop-up space is sold by lots of websites, most notably web-based email services and free webhosts. Tripod and Angelfire use pop-up ads heavily. Yahoo! and Hotmail, among other email providers, assail the user with ads once he or she is logged in.

Gator, a piece of freeware that automatically fills in forms and remembers passwords, generates pop-ups in the corner of the screen based on what the user is searching for. So, for example, if Bob is searching for beer online, an advertisement for Guinness might appear.

Creating Websites Without Pop-ups

Considering the high annoyance value of pop-ups, it's no wonder that they can be a problem for webmasters who don't want to discourage potential visitors by letting them be assaulted by pop-ups. But most free webspace providers, and some paid hosts too, generate pop-ups. So how does a webmaster avoid pop-ups? There are a few ways.

  • Find a host that doesn't use pop-ups. They often use less intrusive forms of advertising, such as banner ads.

  • Find a pay host with no advertising. (A list of ad-free webspace providers can be found here, or here.) Many free sites offer a few paid options with benefits including increased storage space and no ads. Ad-free paid hosting is usually sold for $5-$20 US monthly, and setup fees are sometimes charged as well.

  • Provide suggestions to anyone viewing your page on how to stop the pop-ups. You could link to the website of a piece of software that kills pop-ups, or recommend anything that you have found to work well for you.

  • Insert HTML code in your website that stops pop-ups from working. The JavaScript code for pop-ups is sometimes enclosed within the <BODY> </BODY> tags, or within the <HEAD> section. Either way, inserting <NOSCRIPT> </NOSCRIPT> tags around your page can remedy the problem by tricking the browser out of reading the code as JavaScript. (This trick requires basic knowledge of HTML. If you don't know HTML, relax, it's fairly simple. Dave Raggett's Introduction to HTML, hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium, is a good place to start.) Counterexploitation provides a list of free web providers that use pop-ups, and scripting tricks to stop them. It should be noted here that using these tricks may violate the terms of service agreed to when a free hosting account is first registered, and could get your site kicked off of its hosting service. Check the terms of service before you try to eliminate popups from your website.

Will They Ever End?

As pop-ups have spread, so has annoyance at this obtrusive form of advertising, and lots of software that blocks, or 'kills', pop-ups has become available. Some of these pop-up killers are freeware; others are shareware or must be purchased. A list of pop-up killers can be found here. It should be noted that some of these applications may let a few ads through, or block JavaScript-generated new windows that you want. Some work well for a short time, and then stop blocking advertisements. Also, they run constantly in the background, using up a computer's RAM, and they can cause other problems with a computer as well.

A couple of browsers also have the capability to block pop-ups. Mozilla, which can be downloaded at mozilla.org, can block popups if the user clicks Preferences in the Edit menu, opens up the Advanced menu on the left-hand side, selects the Scripts & Plug-ins item, and unchecks the box next to 'Open unrequested windows'. This instructs Mozilla to prevent scripts in websites from generating new windows, unless a link to another site that opens in a new window is clicked.

Abolimba Multibrowser is a browser that adds features to Internet Explorer, including an ad blocker and a pop-up blocker, both of which have to be configured. (This can be done by clicking 'Ad Blocker' and 'Pop-up Blocker' under the Tools menu and entering the domain names on which the banners and pop-ups are hosted, such as ad.doubleclick.com.)

Opera is another browser that can block pop-ups. It can be downloaded at opera.com. To block pop-ups with Opera, click on the File menu, open the Quick Preferences menu, and click 'Refuse pop-up windows'. This blocks JavaScript from opening new windows, so this command should be disabled when you are clicking a JavaScript enabled link (such as 'Who's Online' in h2g2). One disadvantage of Opera is that the free version constantly displays an advertising banner in one of the top corners of the browser.

If all else fails, disabling JavaScript will prevent pop-ups from opening (unless they are enabled by a different scripting or programming language). To do this in Netscape, open the Preferences window under the Edit menu. Click on the Advanced tab and uncheck the box next to 'Enable JavaScript for Navigator', then close the window by clicking OK. Directions for disabling JavaScript in Internet Explorer can be found here.

A Few Redeeming Values of Pop-ups

Although most Internet users consider pop-ups to be a nuisance2, it is important to note that they do have a few redeeming qualities. Advertisers view the intrusiveness of pop-up ads as a positive attribute, since the most intrusive advertising is often the most effective. Advertisers have continued to purchase pop-up space for more than five years, so the format must generate some sales3. Occasionally, pop-up ads might expose consumers to a new, useful product or service. And importantly, revenue from sales of pop-up space is one way for some services to continue being free instead of becoming pay services4.

1According to Pop-ups Must Die, a campaign to rid the Internet of pop-ups.2A survey by iVillage, a free webhost, found that 92.5% of iVillage users thought that pop-ups were the most annoying thing about the Web. This led iVillage to stop using pop-ups.3This despite the fact that the use of pop-up ads is often considered detrimental to a company's image.4Although there are certainly less intrusive ways to raise funds.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more