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e-business: Want to be annoyed even more? Ad-men are working on it.

Byline: Chris Tomlinson

I sn't it amazing how the ad-men keep coming up with new ways to annoy us? We've all got so used to spam, or have developed strategies for filtering it out, that it barely raises the blood pressure anymore. Now it seems that the drive-by pop-up advert is the preferred way of irritating us.

You can hardly visit a single web site these days without it spitting out a special offer via another window.

Even worse, some sites spawn more pop-ups as you exit them leaving a trail of windows for you to clear up.

Is it not enough that I have already chosen to visit their site? Is my screen not big enough for them? Why do they want to layer window onwindow, message on message, often covering up their own site with an advert for someone else's?

Like most commercial innovation on the web, the use of pop-up windows was pioneered by the porn merchant. And it seems that the less ethical the site's constructors, the slyer the entrapment tactics and the more difficult it is to make those pesky pop-ups go away.

Many disable the window's real close button and substitute it with their own close button - so impossibly small that you miss it, accidentally click on the window and are suddenly hijacked to another site.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which controls exactly how nnoying the men in red braces can be, has recently revised their code of ractice to allegedly cover web advertising.

I went to the Authority site ( to find out exactly what the regulations state. I was immediately greeted with a pop-up box announcing the new standards. Things did not look promising. I then discovered that the ASA is one of that well-known breed of oxymoron - 'a self regulatory body'. I delved no deeper.

Just as it seemed the pop-up breed was all but impossible to destroy, I decided my next manoeuvre was to take matters into my own hands and installed a fabulous bit of software called 'Popup-blocker', and guess what it did?

Yes, you're right, it successfully removed the ad-men's nightmare from my on-line life. For only for pounds 20.00 from, I suggest you invest in a copy too. The more of us that do, the less attractive the pop-up sales tactic will be.

As this countermeasure becomes more widely deployed, it may be that you need to review your own site.

Many badly designed sites use pop-up windows to offer end-users emergency navigational help when their developers have programmed themselves into a functionalcul-de-sac. Furthermore, you would be amazed how many sites simply don't work when I've got my pop-up stopper activated.

The life of the pop-up cascade may or may not be endangered. Either way, these ad-men are a clever bunch, and will soon find some other way to annoy the passing surfer.

Chris is managing director of WebXpress and can be contacted at

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 18, 2003
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