Pop-ups, begone! How to kill those pesky ads

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Pop-ups, begone! How to kill those pesky ads

By C.C. Holland, AnchorDesk

Lately, I've gotten the feeling that my computer might be possessed. Why? Because it seems that every time I start a browsing session, extra windows either bloop into being--obscuring what I'm trying too look at--or sneakily slip under my open window, lurking there for me to discover later on.

What's worse, these unwanted windows can range from the merely annoying (no, X10, I wouldn't buy your miniature camera to spy on my nanny, even if I had one) to the downright blush-inducing. They slow down my work, cause distraction, and on occasion--when dozens of windows suddenly began exploding across my screen--have caused my system to freeze completely.

THE GOOD NEWS: no religious rituals are needed. My computer hasn't been taken over by a malignant force; it's just the online advertising industry trying to get its message across, albeit in a very annoying way. The bad news: I can't expect the onslaught to abate anytime soon.

I'm not alone in my angst. A recent report from Statistical Research showed that 62 percent of the folks surveyed felt strongly that pop-ups interfere with their Web activities; only half of the group had the same complaint about traditional banner ads. The ads are under fire from disability groups, who say they disrupt devices used by the blind to surf. Finally, pop-ups also clog bandwidth and can eventually lead to system crashes, which is one of the reasons a group of irate pop-up victims brought a class-action lawsuit (still unresolved) against America Online last year.

So why aren't advertisers cutting back? Because, unfortunately, pop-ups--also known in advertising parlance as interstitials--get noticed. Statistical Research's data says people are 50 percent more likely to notice a pop-up than a banner ad, and sites like Workz.com (which is aimed at helping small businesses), tout benefits like encouraging immediate action and targeting a desired user profile by using cookies.

ADD TO THAT the current down climate for online advertising, in which advertisers are willing to throw just about anything at readers in a desperate bid to get noticed (witness the creation of larger ad units, animated ads, and the like), and we're not likely to see the pop-up model wane anytime soon.

Does that mean you're stuck with them? Not quite. Your options range from venting about them to taking action against them in the form of software that blocks them from appearing. Where on the Web can you go to squash pop-ups? Here are some places to start.

Popups Must Die!. This UK-based site will allow you to rage about annoying pop-ups (although, ironically, clicking to the bulletin board actually spawned a pop-up ad...oops!, find out which sites are the worst offenders, and even find pop-up blocking software. While the site has much to offer, I must warn you that it seems a tad outdated--and it's likely some of the links will lead you to defunct pages.

PopUp Killer. Billed as "the original and most powerful popups-destroying machine ever created," this free program (which got a four-star rating from ZDNet) purports to close nasty pop-up windows before you even see them--and even removes the persistent GeoCities boxes. It works on the Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Opera, and NeoPlanet browsers. (Platforms: Windows 9x, Me, NT, and 2000.)

Pop-Up Stopper. This freebie from Panicware is aimed at Internet Explorer users, and says it saves bandwidth by preventing extraneous windows from even loading, let alone showing up. (Platforms: Windows 9x, Me, NT, and 2000.)

ZDNet Downloads' cream of the crop. ZDNet Software Library guru (and AnchorDesk columnist) Preston Gralla has handpicked a half-dozen top programs for you to choose from, including the aforementioned PopUp Killer and Pop-Up Stopper. Four are free for the downloading, while two others are shareware; all are designed for Windows 9x, Me, NT, and 2000.

Webwasher. If you're using a Mac, you might be feeling a little left out; indeed, almost all the pop-up killer utilities I found are earmarked for the Windows platform. But this handy program also comes in a Mac flavor and can eliminate pop-ups, filter unwanted banner ads, suppress script execution, and more. It's free for home or educational use.

Thanks to these resources, I think I can finally bid a less-than-fond farewell to my nasty pop-up demons. Care to join me in the exorcism?

-- Anonymous, December 27, 2001

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