Time to get creative about dealing with popunders?
November 1, 2001 11:09 PM   Subscribe

Time to get creative about dealing with popunders?
We all know about those crazy popunder ads which are more ubiquitous than ever- but Bill Rini of rini.org has some interesting thoughts on what we might do about them. I like this kind of brainstorming about a phenomenon that remains annoying as hell.
posted by artlung (21 comments total)
i absolutely loathe pop under ads. setting up a distributed set of machines to incessantly hit the ad servers sounds an awful lot like a denial of service attack though.

too bad there's not a way to conditionally disable javascript-- on specific domains, or disable specific actions (onUnload events, window.focus(), etc.).
posted by themaxx at 11:35 PM on November 1, 2001

Things I do about it:
I run Mike's hacked hosts file. That means mostly blank iframe spaces where big network, double-click banner ads should be, and if I get popups or popunders, they are almost always blank. Not perfect, but better than nothing as the ad networks are completely blocked out and can't cookie me and track me.

Antipopup came out, and supposedly blocks all popup and popunder calls from the browser. I haven't tried this out yet, but it looks promising.

When I use mozilla, I take advantage of the popup and popunder killing hack that is one line of code.
posted by mathowie at 11:40 PM on November 1, 2001

My answer is this:

The HOSTS file hack is nice, but you need to take it further. Set up your HOSTS file to point to a specific IP. Let's say I ran that webserver using that IP.

Then I set it up so every error page on that machine was a blank page with an onLoad="window.close()" function. Every error page, every page, all of them.

So, in your hosts file you have

ads.x10.com ##.###.##.##

Where the ##.###.##.## is the IP of my machine. Now when a popup happens and it tries to grab:


It would just be an error page. AND since all the error pages on my ##.###.##.## server are:

<BODY onLoad="window.close();">

The popup would close immediately.
posted by perplexed at 11:50 PM on November 1, 2001

x10 knows pop unders annoy people. Unfortunately, they work (or have worked) very well for them. No matter how many emails they get, if they're selling spy cameras, they wont care.
And it's been a while since I've been involved in internet advertising, but if people are still getting away with selling impressions, god bless em. I have the feeling, though, that most pop unders are sold on a cost per click basis now.
If you really wanted to help get rid of pop unders, I guess you could boycott the companies that use them. After, of course, letting them know what you were doing, and why.
posted by Doug at 11:53 PM on November 1, 2001

too bad there's not a way to conditionally disable javascript

But there is. That's what Internet Explorer's security zones are all about.
posted by kindall at 12:03 AM on November 2, 2001

if people are still getting away with selling impressions, god bless em.

Ditto. I'm probably having a panic-attack about the viability of the internet so I now welcome almost anyone willing to advertise here. Pop-unders are annoying but it only takes a nanosecond to close them. My current defeatist mood is to encourage advertisers as much as possible to keep all this going for free. Hell, I'll probably start clicking on some of them if I like a site or an advertiser enough. At least until things pick up again.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:11 AM on November 2, 2001

Miguel, I'm not so sure I'm ready to write off the Internet. I think the problem is that people have incorrect assumptions about Internet advertising. When Coke puts up a billboard, do they expect people to slam on their brakes and rush out to buy a Coke? No. The marketing and advertising industry has sold advertisers on this idea of a magic solution. First it was banner ads, then animated banner ads, then quarter page banner ads, pop-ups/unders, etc., etc. Listen, if I'm thinking about a database purchase, it's highly unlikely that I'm going to see a quarter page Oracle ad and click on it and make a purchase (forget the fact that Oracle doesn't sell it's products online). I think advertising rates will go back up when advertisers learn that you can't measure effectiveness based on impressions and click-thrus. It's not an immediate gratification medium in that sense. To reward people who do the equivilent of hustling tourists into strip clubs is only opening the door to more and more obnoxious advertising as each technique proves to lose its novelty. Unless you let them know that their behavior is unacceptable, you won't be able to tell the difference between Yahoo and a porn site.
posted by billman at 12:40 AM on November 2, 2001

Unless you let them know that their behavior is unacceptable, you won't be able to tell the difference between Yahoo and a porn site.

Good point, billman. But how do you go about encouraging savvy advertisers who know pop-unders are annoying, to try new forms, without alienating them altogether? And what new forms? I'm a complete ignoramus on this matter. I'm just worried, that's all.

While I'm thinking, here are the only pop-unders that might be deemed acceptable at the moment.
(WARNING:not too sexist set of advertisements for the wonder bra.Requires Real. No padding, though ;-)

posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:59 AM on November 2, 2001

So, maybe that IP is:



(ps, a window that was not opened by a bit of javascript won't be able to close itself unless you give it permission by clicking yes. So if you go to directly, it will ask you if it's okay to close the window. JavaScript pop-up windows will not have this problem)

Download Mike's hacked HOSTS file and replace every occurrance of with Close your browser, come back here, and click this link. (If you click it now, it will go to some non-existent page on ads.x10.com)

The window should close automatically after you make the change.
posted by perplexed at 1:04 AM on November 2, 2001

I've found that a combination of the Proxomitron proxy/selective javascript crippler and the lite version of Advertising Killer provide a squeaky-clean, ad-free internet experience. Always was a fan of whitespace in website design . . .
posted by poorhaus at 1:10 AM on November 2, 2001

Ack, my JavaScript link is stupidbad. Trust me, it works.
posted by perplexed at 1:18 AM on November 2, 2001

how do you go about encouraging savvy advertisers who know pop-unders are annoying, to try new forms, without alienating them altogether? And what new forms?

I don't think you need new forms: just refreshing attitudes to old ones. The problem for me is that advertisers have been sold the internet as a strawman, as billman pointed out. Advertising depends on subtly increasing our awareness of brands and products in association with things we're fond of. Just that. It's insidious and it works, but you can train yourself to minimise its effects.

The vibe of "must notice me, must click on me" which most internet ads project, may actually have a negative effect on sales. But the people who sold that "click-thru" strawman have to keep hanging in there cuz they're stepped out in blood so deep, as it were. It's a vicious circle.

Google and Mefi have offered a way out with text ads: we take the time to read them because they're "information" and they're not intrusive. Subtle, lovingly crafted banner advertising or even flash interstitials could achieve a similar effect. It's a question, as with TV ads, of making ads we'll grudgingly like rather than despise.
posted by walrus at 3:23 AM on November 2, 2001

Walruas: Exactly.

Is there an online ad you would go looking to checkout? Well then, it's funny they have the Clio awards for offline advertising. Obviously, people enjoy certain advertising. Whazzzzzzzzzzzzzup? Could it be that online advertisers are weak f*cks and use more and more intrusive advertising as a way to make up for their lack of ability?
posted by billman at 3:44 AM on November 2, 2001

I don't think the worst of the intrusive pop ups can last. I remember going to Empire Online (www.empireonline.co.uk) only to have the entire page blacked out by a Mini Cooper ad that gave you no choice but to sit there until it decided to leave you in peace with the page that you wanted. That can't be good publicity for them. What's worse is the pop ups that use the 'close window' cross to link to another site. That's very sneaky and annoying. Advertisers may get impressions from that kind of tactic, but only from users who will back-button out of the page straight away and never visit it again.

And as for click-through rates, I think advertisers have taken the magazine advertising ethos to the Web, rather than seeing it in the same way as TV or poster advertising, and I don't think you'll change their attitudes. Firms that advertise in computer mags put different phone numbers in different publications and measure the response. If a magazine isn't producing repsonse, the advertiser pulls out. If there is a way to measure response then advertisers will always insist on it, although they're often not savvy enough to interpret it. I personally think the only good Web advertising is the sort that offers information that compliments the site and doesn't force you to notice it. Sneaky tactics will never work.
posted by Summer at 4:18 AM on November 2, 2001

I downloaded a new hosts file from someone here, and I have to admit that it blocks nearly all the obnoxious ads on the pages I go to. One draw back, though, is that now the broken doubleclick ads make IE behave as if I've opened a new page. So clicking on a link to a page with 5 doubleclick ads means I need to hit the back button 6 times in order to get back to the page where I originally clicked the link.

I use panicware's Pop-up Stopper. It disables IE's ability to spawn a new window. In the times when you want to spawn one, you must hold down the CTRL key to temporarily disable it. It's a bit of a nuscence, buyt I can live with it.

I think the best way to stop popup ads is to go out of my way NOT to purchase items that are advertised with it.
posted by crunchland at 5:20 AM on November 2, 2001

I'm with crunchland; Pop-up Stopper is my method of choice (direct URL). It's free, unobtrusive (icon in system tray), and relatively easily circumvented when you want to allow a popup (cripes, and they're not even paying me to say this stuff). Unfortunately, it's IE/Windows only... but whaddya gonna do?

With this in conjunction with the Internet Junkbuster proxy, I enjoy an almost ad-free Web. Mmm, contenty.
posted by letourneau at 6:06 AM on November 2, 2001

The pop-unders don't bother me at all, because they are behind the browser window I'm actually using, and when I quit the program, they go away without me ever even seeing 'em. The other reason they don't bother me is that the alternative to an advertiser supported web is probably going to be subscription fees. I don't like subscription fees...
posted by spilon at 9:21 AM on November 2, 2001

Skallas, it's my server.
posted by perplexed at 10:39 AM on November 2, 2001

Part of the problem is that the web publishing community has no real effort underway to equate the web with other mediums in the eyes of advertisers. Right now they've got cheap ad space and are buying it up using rip-off techniques like "Cost Per Acqusition" - meaning the publisher doesnt get paid until the user signs up or buys something. I mean come on. I don't see web advertising improving for the forseeable future, as publishers continue to sit on their hands (IAB isn't really doing anything) and advertisers can get cheap ads. Microadvertising seems to be the only thing with some upside in the web-advertising arena.
posted by owillis at 11:52 AM on November 2, 2001

I use POW! from analog X...it's free, kills popups I want killed, and it WORKS.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:09 PM on November 2, 2001

I work in online publishing and I've never been a fan of intrusive advertising such as pop-ups. However, it pays the bills. What's more, people actually repsond to it. They do buy products. The more I learn about advertising, the more I realize how the more blatant techniques work. That doesn't mean to say I like it, but it pays the bills.

Where the online medium has shot itself in the foot is the way that it boasted how it could track the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. In doing so, it has ended up devaluing itself. You can't track the effectiveness of newspaper advertising in such a detailed way. But advertisers are still willing to pay for ads in newspapers. When it comes to the web, advertisers know that less than 1% of banner ads ever get clicked on. So they want to pay per click. Some even manipulate pay per click ads to minimize click-thrus while maintaining a subtle branding campaign on a website. Then they come out and say banners are ineffective in order to drive the cpm price down.

The upshot: advertising such as pop-ups helps pay my wages. Intelligent advertising campaigns do work. People do click on pop-ups.
posted by skinsuit at 7:05 PM on November 3, 2001

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