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Who Invented the Pop-Up Ad?

Pop-up ads are the pesky and sudden windows that appear on a website. They continue to be one of the most annoying and intrusive forms of online advertising. Fortunately, many immediately hated the pop-ups, leading to the creation and development of pop-up ad blockers. 

Ethan Zuckerman created the pop-up ad for the former company he worked at, Tripod.com. Fast-forward to 2018, and Zuckerman’s calling his creation the internet’s original sin, apologizing to everyone for creating the pop-up ad. 

The Beginning of the Pop-Up Ad

Ethan Zuckerman is the inventor of one of the most notorious features of websites, pop-up ads. Born on January 4, 1973, Ethan Zuckerman became the person who altered the way individuals consume content on the internet. (Source: India Times

Ethan Zuckerman’s story starts way back from 1994 to 1999. During these years, Zuckerman worked for one of the first dot com enterprises, Tripod.com, which targeted recent college graduates for its demographic. After its initial failure, Tripod.com converted into a webpage-hosting provider and a proto-social network.

After numerous years, Tripod.com’s workers tried many revenue models and new business plans to gain money, including running a subscription service, selling branded merchandise, and profiting in bundling magazines with textbook publishers. Soon, Tripod.com’s people realized that advertising gave them the most money.

In an article Zuckerman wrote for The Atlantic, he describes the beginning of the pop-up ad creation.

The model that got us acquired was analyzing users’ personal homepages so we could better target ads to them. Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad. It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content.

Ethan Zuckerman

Zuckerman continues by saying that they produced the pop-up ad when a car company became alarmed when they’d purchased a banner ad on a page centered on anal intercourse. Not long after, Zuckerman wrote the code to launch the window, running an ad in it. (Source: The Atlantic

Ethan Zuckerman and His Hated Brainchild

Ethan Zuckerman, the famed creator of the pop-up ad, described his creation as the internet’s sin, apologizing to the internet for having created it as it remains to be one of the most agitating and intrusive ways of online advertising.

And although pervasive advertisements like pop-up ads allow free services and lead the internet to grow, Zuckerman states that pop-up ads have nearly exhausted their usefulness. Due to the convenience of online money transactions, people might not mind paying to avoid the nuisance of pop-up ads. (Source: The Atlantic

Ad-supported services will continue to persist, but platforms such as YouTube and Spotify, which offer premium subscriptions to avoid advertisements, will continue to increase. Zuckerman notes that people would be more willing to pay if the alternative is privacy and quality services. (Source: Eyerys)

Whether we embrace micropayments, membership, crowdfunding, or any other model, there are bound to be unintended consequences. But 20 years into the ad-supported web, we can see that our current model is bad, broken, and corrosive. It’s time to start paying for privacy, to support services we love, and to abandon those that are free, but sell us – the users and our attention – as the product.

Ethan Zuckerman

(Source: CNet)

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