‘I’M SORRY’: Ethan Zuckerman – The Man Who Invented The Pop-Up Ad (One Of The Web’s Most Hated Tools) Begs Forgiveness


In a thoughtful essay about the future of the internet, one of the founding fathers of the dot com era has finally apologized for creating the pop-up ad. Ethan Zuckerman is the director of the MIT Center for Civic Media but in the mid-90s he found himself as one of the first staff members of Tripod.com, a pioneer site in attempting to create online communities. And as the company tried to create a viable revenue model, Zuckerman came up with a very important, very annoying, way to attract advertising revenue. At the end of the day, the business model that got us funded was advertising,’ Zuckerman writes in The Atlantic. ‘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.’ More specifically: ‘I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.’ Zuckerman writes that pop-up ad was originally meant to placate a car maker who was upset that its banner ad was appearing on a page featuring sexual content.


This way they could keep the ad revenue, but the advertisement itself would be featured in a separate window. But now, 20 years later, Zuckerman believes the advertising based model of online businesses is doing more harm than good, and urges people to consider ‘micropayments’ or subscription models. Advertising as we regularly see it online is now a hinderence for users. ‘As a rule, the ads that are worth the most money are those that appear when you’re ready to make a purchase—the ads that appear on Google when you’re searching for a new car or for someone to repair your roof can be sold for dollars per click because advertisers know you’re already interested in the services they are offering and that you’re likely to make an expensive purchase,’ he writes.


‘But most online advertising doesn’t follow your interest; it competes for your attention. It’s a barrier you have to overcome (minimizing windows, clicking it out of the way, ignoring it) to get to the article or interaction you want.’ Zuckerman has now concluded that the current system is ‘bad, broken, and corrosive.’ The full text of Zuckerman’s apology and where how he hopes the internet can still correct course can be read at The Atlantic. ( Source: Dailymail.co.uk )