Blocking the Pop-up

The Computers corner

By Charles Miller

There was a time a few years ago when the Internet was getting to a point that many popular websites were almost unusable as a result of the large number of pop-up advertisements. A lot of people were getting fed up.

A girlfriend of mine described the scene in her office thus: she would be startled out of her chair by a short but really loud blast of music followed by a short beep coming from her boss’s office. Seconds later the boss walked by on his way to the break room, coffee cup in hand, muttering under his breath something that sounded like obscenities. A few seconds later from the office she hears the “microsoft welcome” sound as his computer reboots. Every time this happened she knew the boss had encountered one of those loud, intrusive, in-your-face flash video ads that turned up the volume and ran for 90 seconds with no way out. He found a way out by hitting his reset button though.

Things are a little different with my girlfriend today. She is not often startled by loud music, but on a regular basis her boss still walks out of his office muttering under his breath about the fortune he spent on new computers not doing anything to fix the old problem. Then she hears the iconic Apple startup sound indicating the boss had encountered one of the new full-screen in-your-face ads with no obvious way out, and had pulled the power plug from the wall to kill the computer and thus stop the advertisement.

That is an effective but obviously low-tech way of dealing with aggressive advertisers. More sophisticated computer users know that there is software available that will block some advertising. The only reason I have previously refrained from recommending any of these by name has been that they never work for long. As soon as a certain ad-blocking software gains any traction, the advertisers find ways to circumvent the blocking and put their ads back in front of you.

For many months the program uBlock Origin (not to be confused with just uBlock) has been doing a great job blocking ads for me. This browser add-in is available for most popular browsers including Internet Explorer, Safari, and even Google Chrome. Here is where the tale gets interesting.

Responding to consumer demand, both Apple and Microsoft have for some time included some basic pop-up blocking capabilities in their browsers. Apple and Microsoft are software companies, while Google is an advertising agency. At one point last year Google prevented users of Chrome from being able to use uBlock Origin. This ban is no longer in effect, yet the rumors persist that uBlock Origin had to pull back on their effectiveness to allow more Google ads to get through to users of the Chrome browser.

The battle lines were drawn long ago. Internet users for the most part want to have an advertising-free online experience, or at least have ads they can easily ignore. But on the other hand the entire business model of the Internet is built around websites being supported by advertising. Advertising companies like Google are increasingly finding themselves in conflict with software makers, including Apple and Microsoft.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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