‘Sorry for the trouble’ says the inventor of the pop-up ad

sorry trouble says inventor pop ad popup
Very few Internet users will have much affection for the classic pop-up browser advert, and now the man who coded the very first one has apologized for his creation. In a lengthy column in the Atlantic, Ethan Zuckerman renounces the ad-based business model he helped set up and calls for the online community to switch to a better solution.

As a Web developer working in the late 1990s, Zuckerman devised a method of displaying an advert that could exist independently of the site that prompted it to appear — the pop-up ad. It was thanks to this new form of marketing that the business Zuckerman worked for was funded and acquired, but now he wants a rethink about the way the Internet is bankrolled.

Related: AdBlock Plus may be slowing your computer to a crawl

“We ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad,” says Zuckerman. “I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.” Zuckerman goes on to explain how the rush for more relevant (and more profitable) advertising leads to greater surveillance and more comprehensive data collection.

“I have come to believe that advertising is the original sin of the Web,” says the developer, now director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT and principal research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab. “The fallen state of our Internet is a direct, if unintentional, consequence of choosing advertising as the default model to support online content and services.” If you have the time to read through the full article, it’s well worth taking a look at — Zuckerman’s proposed solutions include expanding the number of paid-for services on the Web.

While Zuckerman admits an ad-powered Internet has its benefits — including free and easy access for anyone anywhere in the world — he thinks it’s time for a change. In the meantime, if you’ve ever been annoyed by a pop-up advert, it may be some consolation to know that the man who started it all doesn’t like them either. If you want to alleviate the problem, check out our guides for blocking pop-ups on Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer.

[Header image: Robuart / Shutterstock.com]

Computing

These are the 5 best free antivirus apps to protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as picking from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.
Computing

Printing to PDF in Windows is easy, no matter which method you use

Microsoft's latest operating system makes it easier than ever to print to PDF in Windows, but there are alternative methods for doing so, even if you want to forgo Adobe Acrobat. Here's how.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than it's ever been, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Computing

Installing fonts in Windows 10 is quick and easy -- just follow these steps

Want to know how to install fonts in Windows 10? Here's our guide on two easy ways to get the job done, no matter how many you want to add to your existing catalog, plus instructions for deleting fonts in the process.
Computing

After a month of bugs, the Windows 10 October 2018 Update is finally here

After more thoroughly investigating and resolving all bugs and related issues, Microsoft is announcing the Windows 10 October 2018 is again rolling out to consumers starting today, November 13. 
Computing

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.
Emerging Tech

New simulation shows how Elon Musk’s internet satellite network might work

Elon Musk has the dream of building a network for conveying internet traffic via thousands of satellites. A new simulation created by a computer scientist looks at how feasible the idea is.
Computing

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement, or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.
Computing

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.
Computing

These laptop bags will keep your notebook secure wherever you go

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.
Computing

These Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts will update your OG Windows skills

Windows 10 has many new features, and they come flanked with useful new keyboard shortcuts. Check out some of the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts to improve your user experience.
Computing

Protecting your PDF with a password isn't difficult. Just follow these steps

If you need to learn how to password protect a PDF, you have come to the right place. This guide will walk you through the process of protecting your documents step-by-step, whether you're running a MacOS or Windows machine.