Technology changes so fast.  You can probably remember some of your first interactions with the internet, “browsing” through the few websites that existed back in the age of dial-up.  This is of course, assuming that nobody was already using the phone line for a telephone call.  In this post, I want take a moment to remember a piece of the old internet that you just don’t see much of anymore: pop-up ads.

“Your Computer is Infected!  Get a Home Loan at Record Low Rates! You are a Winner, Claim your Prize! ” –  Now your memory is starting to come back to you.  In the early days of internet adoption, pop-up ads were everywhere.  Monetizing websites was as easy as bombarding your visitors with little pop-up windows with each page load.

Photo from howstuffworks.com

Photo from howstuffworks.com

As visitors, we were used to it.  There was not tabbed browsing back then, so the windows would usually just open up in the background.  Or sometimes more annoyingly, they would open up in front of the window you were viewing.  Almost like swatting at a fly, our cursor would quickly close the pop-up and go back to whatever content it was we were viewing.

Pop-up ads were so common, that they had actually become a part of our culture.  References were made to the ads in movies, on TV, you name it.  It was a quickly growing aspect of what it meant to experience being “online”.  It seemed the insanity would never stop!

Then, all of the sudden, the trend began to decline.  Why?  Mostly because internet users started using browsers that enabled them to block popups.  Opera and Mozilla began in the early 2000’s to includes pop-up blocking features into their browser. When Mozilla’s Firefox began to allow developers to create custom “Add-Ons” to browsers, it was a game changer as well. Programmers were not only creating better pop-up blockers, but blockers that would disable all advertising.

Within a few years, almost all major browsers had pop-up blocking functionality incorporated in them automatically.  This meant it became near impossible to create a successful pop-up ad that the internet users as mass would see.  As more and more browsers came on board, the trend of websites using pop-up ads sped down even faster.

As we sit here today, in 2014, there still are sites that incorporate pop-up ads. However, very few still do, as they are terribly ineffective and disruptive from a user experience.  Surely 10 years from now we will look back at some aspect of web design and advertising and think, “Man, that was annoying.  I can’t believe we used to put up with that!”