MSNBC notes,

Call it spyware, or adware, or just plain annoying — but it’s everywhere. Programs designed to deliver pop-up advertising have multiplied like viruses in recent months and consumers should get used to it: Companies behind the pop-ups are signing up brand-name advertisers, winning court battles and rolling in cash.

AT A MINIMUM, pop-ups–even legitimate ones from the site a consumer is visiting, such as a coupon offer as a shopper clicks away–are usually an unwanted interruption of Internet surfing. Throw in a few “adware” programs that anonymously follow consumers online in order to offer them context-sensitive ads and performance can slow to a crawl. And then there’s “spyware”: programs that secretly watch every move consumers make and every word they type–a clear invasion of privacy.

As with spam, technology firms and legislators are hard at work trying to beat back pop-up ads. But slowing down pop-ups may ultimately prove a more daunting problem than fighting spam. Spammers now often struggle to make profits, and sometimes face stiff government fines. But pop-up networks have attracted brand-name advertisers like Dell, eBay, Expedia, and Orbitz. Adware firms have won two victories in court. And most important, at least for now, they are making money.

The good thing about this is that it appears, for the time being, we have a business model that works. Most of us are unwilling to pay for Internet content, having grown accustomed to the idea that everything on the ‘net should be “free.” For the life of me, I still can’t figure out who it is that clicks on these ads and buys the spy cameras and other crap hawked therein, but apparently enough people are to make pop-ups profitable.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    Of course, I feel the same way about most commercials on TV, and a lot of junk mail I get via snail mail. I guess it only takes a very small percentage of responders to make it pay off for the advertiser.

  2. James Joyner says:

    True ’nuff.

    Of course, with TiVo, I don’t watch too many commercials on TV anymore, either. And, with the Google toolbar, most pop-ups are blocked, too.

  3. Ron says:

    I kinda like the popups. Closing them gives me something to do while the page loads.

  4. McGehee says:

    I’m using SafeGuard Pop-Up Blocker, and apparently it learns to let through anything I “tell” it to let through.

    Pop-Up Stopper (not to be confused, etc.) had to be told every time to let through what I wanted to let through, never learning the difference, and NoAds had to be told what NOT to let through.

    Everybody claims MSIE is the pop-pp-unprotected browser, but my wife, who uses Netscape 7 gets pop-ups all the time.

  5. Paul says:

    What’s a pop-up?

    I use Apple’s Safari, we don’t get popups.

    When I go to another person’s computer I am startled by the number of those damn ads.

    I have not seen a popup in about a year I guess.