Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet

Unwanted Popups Boosting Web Traffic 118

Posted by kdawson
from the stealing-eyeballs dept.
Most of us have experienced popups used for advertising. Now, some adware companies and advertiser networks are using popups (mostly from programs that users did not want installed) to directly boost traffic numbers for their customer Web sites. Net rating and measurement companies try to detect and discount such inflated traffic numbers, with mixed success.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Unwanted Popups Boosting Web Traffic

Comments Filter:
  • by djh101010 (656795) * on Monday December 11, 2006 @05:48PM (#17200290) Homepage Journal
    What are these "popups" of what you speak, please? /firefox
    • is there a way to do kill those slide in flash ads ??
    • RTFS (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2006 @05:54PM (#17200364)
      Read the summary again, it clearly says:

      mostly from programs that users did not want installed

      ...meaning spyware, adware, viruses, trojans etc. It has nothing to do with your choice of browser.
      • Re:RTFS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by djh101010 (656795) * on Monday December 11, 2006 @06:00PM (#17200426) Homepage Journal
        ...meaning spyware, adware, viruses, trojans etc. It has nothing to do with your choice of browser.

        I disagree. On my work system (the only windows box I use), with IE, I get lots of popups, with firefox, I get very very few. So it certainly has _something_ to do with my choice of browser. It's all additive, of course: use a browser that has some decent popup blocking, _and_ don't install stupid shit on your pc, _or_ don't run the OS the stupid shit is made for. It all helps.
      • How do you get the spyware in the first place?
        • by Duggeek (1015705)

          The latest trends for doing this are...

          • Clicking on pop-ups.
          • Clicking on anything that's flashing/rumbling with the message "you're computer is infected" [sic].
          • Surfing for pr0n.

          This is by no means a complete list, just my "top three". Anyone else like to add to this?

          • {Anyone else like to add to this?}

            Sure. Yahooligans and their trojan-ridden "booting l33t w4rez".

            Nimrods.

          • by Fred_A (10934)
            Anyone else like to add to this?
            Opening crap attachments from spamming bots/zombies such as "see attached file for details" zips ?
      • Read the summary again, it clearly says:

        mostly from programs that users did not want installed

        ...meaning spyware, adware, viruses, trojans etc. It has nothing to do with your choice of browser.
        Um, what? I don't have spyware, adware, viruses -- and I attribute that largely to my choice of browsers. My lack of trojans, I attribute to my common sense.
      • by NadNad (550015)
        It has a lot to do with the browser choice actually, in that it's IE which is precisely the program that users shouldn't want installed.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      Just click on the dancing hoof for more wild bovine action.
    • Using meme theory to create a strategy for detecting click fraud -

      http://www.realmeme.com/click [realmeme.com]

      I was modifying my original Meme Miner to improve its prediction success and it stumbled upon anomalies which point to click fraud.

      Imagine my surprise!

    • by Xman73x (1032330)
      Man we still have popups and Spam even after how many years since this crap started to Piss off everyone anyway?..Like Ge?..1998?....Stupid Computer freaks who don't know how to run shit! lol..Sorry but I'm fat up with liers and promisers who say this and that what the future will be like. when they none of it happened as of yet!..lol-..
  • Warning! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Clever7Devil (985356) on Monday December 11, 2006 @05:49PM (#17200302)
    Your stock values may be infected with SPYWARE!
    • This whole business will surely undergo mutual self destruction.

      While paying for refered clicks props up some very useful services (Google, probably + various artful collections of 18+ girls), most organisations that advertise this way are not really adding value. The spyware companies are not adding value either, but are just feasting on greed.

      I say let them all just get on with it and rip eachothers throats out.

  • As seen on CN (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xENoLocO (773565) * on Monday December 11, 2006 @05:49PM (#17200306) Homepage
    CenterNetworks [centernetworks.com] reported this very early this morning...

    Entrepreneur.com's traffic dropped by 5 million when they stopped their popunder campaign. Pretty sad...
    • by djh101010 (656795) *
      Entrepreneur.com's traffic dropped by 5 million when they stopped their popunder campaign. Pretty sad...

      Well, it's not like anyone was reading their ads anyway. Traffic doesn't help anything, especially if you annoy me to deliver the object.
      • by Kabuthunk (972557)
        Traffic itself does not doesn't help directly, but numbers do.

        If a site is able to boast "5 million hits a day" or whatever, they sound important, even if it's more accurately "5 million hits a day, 4,999,985 hits generated by popup ads".
    • by CCFreak2K (930973)
      5 million what? People? Bytes? Ice cream cones?

      A math teacher I had before called unlabeled numbers like that "naked numbers."
  • or take what you paid for. I use Linux myself, but feel free to get a Mac and experience less of these spyware just the same. It is really pointless to use Windows, or rather to use Windows as a non Windows expert and then complain about such.
    • by Clever7Devil (985356) on Monday December 11, 2006 @06:02PM (#17200448)
      I myself am a Linux user. When I'm talking to someone about technology, in person, I inevitably shift the conversation towards F/OSS. But, am I the only geek getting just a little bit tired of reading these "you wouldn't have these problems if you just used Linux" posts? This is Slashdot. We know. I promise.
      • As a fellow F/OSS enthusiast, I am also bored of the "you wouldn't have these problems if you just used Linux" posts around here.

        To the Linux fanbois responsible: Why not point to a specific chunk of code, or whichever branch is responsible for whatever wonderful feature you are pointing out today? After all, isn't that what F/OSS is all about? I may not use Linux, but I do write code, and I'm always on the lookout for clever hacks and good security (it's a zen thing).
    • It's possible to get spyware infesting your OS that does this, but most of the popups have been browser weaknesses/features, not OS weaknesses. Linux doesn't encourage you to use IE the way Windows does, and Windows doesn't go out of its way to get you to use Konqueror, and the kind of people who click "Yes" on any dialog box offering to upgrade their browser are more likely to be Windows users, so there's a bit of correlation, but it's mainly a browser problem.

      I'm using an older Mozilla version and haven'

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Spliffster (755587)
        <script type=...>
        var atags = document.getElementsByName("a");
        for(current=atags.item(0); current; current=current.nextSibling)
        current.onclick = open_nasty_popup();
        function open_nasty_popup() {...}
        </scrip>

        the above code will bypass most (if not any) popup blocker. On every a tag (link) in the page, an onclick handler is added to the link. popup blocker block popups which are opened without user interaction. because a click is a user interaction, popup blocker won't normally stop such window

    • or take what you paid for. I use Linux myself, but feel free to get a Mac and experience less of these spyware just the same. It is really pointless to use Windows, or rather to use Windows as a non Windows expert and then complain about such.

      Or use the OS that works for your needs without making rash generalizations that make you sound like a pompous ass+. I use Windows on my desktops (I gave up on Ubuntu for my laptop, too many issues) and Linux on my four home servers. I use cygwin and/or remote sessions for the linux tools. And it's funny - I have never had a virus*, I have never had spyware, I have never been hacked. It's this amazing thing called "common sense"; it just so happens that Windows requires more of it than the other opt

      • by pembo13 (770295)
        So are you implying that having pop ups invading ones OS is having their needs met? If not, then I don't see how you disagree as the tone of your post seems to imply. I also made the limitation of being a _non_ Windows expert. If things work that well for you in Windows, then you sir are a Windows expert. Again, I don't see how you contradict my points.
        • So are you implying that having pop ups invading ones OS is having their needs met? If not, then I don't see how you disagree as the tone of your post seems to imply. I also made the limitation of being a _non_ Windows expert. If things work that well for you in Windows, then you sir are a Windows expert. Again, I don't see how you contradict my points.

          My wife runs Windows; the only advise she got from me was never, ever run IE -- also no viruses, popups,etc. She is far from an expert. But to your question -- how can I answer a point that I don't consider a valid point? I believe that it /is/ possible to run Windows as a non-expert; but no amount of arguing I do will convince you of that. I further believe that blanket statements of any kind (whether it be over choice of OS or about your favorite color) tend to make the utterer look just a bit si

          • by pembo13 (770295)
            Fair enough. However, every now and then I heard of perfect experiences, while very regularly i see very poor experiences. So base my judgements based on the information I see regularly. I have Windows installed, and it seems to be free of viri and other malaware. However, I see the opposite very very often.
      • by pembo13 (770295)
        Also, lets be fair, you're assuming, as am I, that you've never been hacked.
        • Also, lets be fair, you're assuming, as am I, that you've never been hacked.

          Not entirely -- I never make assumptions like that. I do periodically monitor network traffic; and regularly monitor my windows systems specifically for anything untoward. To do that I check network usage, CPU usage -- including 'holes' in CPU usage where it reports as idle, but performance makes it obvious that something is running.

          So while I suppose it's possible that I've been hacked (through a hardware firewall), I would classify the likelihood as 'extremely low'.

  • They had it coming (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Monday December 11, 2006 @05:58PM (#17200404) Journal
    There's no honor amongst thieves. I just wish something more could be done to screw these companies that fund spammers and malware advertisers, like law enforcement doing its job or something. Is paying someone to do something illegal also illegal? For example, it's illegal to hire a hitman.
    • by Goalie_Ca (584234)
      I've always wanted to know which assholes become developers for these companies. Somewhere out there some talented hackers are getting paid to screw up peoples systems. Very unethical!
      • by soft_guy (534437)

        I've always wanted to know which assholes become developers for these companies. Somewhere out there some talented hackers are getting paid to screw up peoples systems. Very unethical!
        I've been offered jobs that I thought were unethical (some like what we are talking about.) I wasn't interested.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DittoBox (978894)
        Analyze any spyware, adware, hijackware, malware, virii etc. for any length of time, and you'll quickly realize that there is very, very little talent in the pool of "developers" that create this crap.
    • by Daemonstar (84116)

      Is paying someone to do something illegal also illegal?

      Yes. The person soliciting the illegal activity is charged depending on what the solicited illegal activity was. In Texas this could be:

      • 15.02. CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY
      • 15.03. CRIMINAL SOLICITATION
      • 15.031. CRIMINAL SOLICITATION OF A MINOR

      i.e.: Paying someone to kill a person would be something like "Criminal Solicitation to commit Murder".

      The punishment is usually one degree lower than the solicited activity.

    • Someone ought to do a media expose' and actually hire a spamming company to send out a campaign, and then measure what kind of response they actually get. Given the look of many of the campaigns out there (from looking at the subject lines captured by my spam filter), I can't imagine what kind of complete idiot would fall for any of them. Quite possibly, it's not those getting spammed who are being taken, but the people who contracting a spammer for a spamvertising campaign that are. If it turns out that
      • This is a good idea. Worst case, if it turns out that the click-through rates are high enough to justify the cost to the advertiser, it will still provide a good "refresher course" to all of the 14 and 84 year olds who are still learning the ins-and-outs of email.
  • Pop-up blocker? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HAL9000_mirror (1029222) on Monday December 11, 2006 @06:07PM (#17200530)
    What happens when one uses pop-blocker which kills the pop-up window? Is that a hit? I assume the pop-blocker kills the window before a connection is established to the target server?
    --Ram
    "So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak." --Sun Tzu, in The Art of War.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Pop-up scripts create a new pageviewer (new window or new tab) supplied with a target URL.

      Chronologically speaking:
      1. the pop-up window is created,
      2. that new window requests data from the target URL
      3. and finally displays the data.
      If you're ignoring/blocking scripts, the code to create a new window is not executed meaning that we never get to step #2.
    • I don't know about pop-ups in particular, but Adblock has (or at least had) a setting where you could choose either to download the ads and not display them, or not download them at all.

    • The thing is, pop-up blockers are only effective against the ones originating from websites you visit with your browser. In the case of malware creating them, which seems to be what the article is talking about, they are useless (since your browser has no control over other applications creating pop-ups).
  • by Buttonius (31377) on Monday December 11, 2006 @06:21PM (#17200726) Homepage
    Wouldn't it be much smarter if these adware companies let their malware fetch the popup file (pretending to be any popular web browser) and not display it to the user? Most users would never notice the additional network traffic and, not having seen a sudden popup, would have little incentive to go hunting for the spyware.
    • by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt.gmail@com> on Monday December 11, 2006 @06:29PM (#17200820) Homepage
      Having a high purchase : hits ratio is just as important as having a lot of hits. If the users never see the pop ups, they are guaranteed never to purchase your products from them...
      • by hcdejong (561314)
        So would running a wget on some of those ads poison their statistics enough for them to give up?
    • Probably yes, but at some point one crosses over from the gray area into the darkside of outright advertising fraud and it would difficult to justify charging clients for advertising impressions, popups in this case, while not showing anything tangible to the target audience.
    • by ArtStone (745847)
      People with clue running and watching a web site can tell the difference between a real web browser and something pretending to be a web browser.

      Just the simplest of things as an example... after fetching the HTML code, did the same session retrieve the graphics? Is it handling cookies? Is it running the javascript?

      Now some small percent of real browsers might not do any of that (how many lynx hits a day do you get in your logs?) - but if you purchased traffic and 95% of your "hits" match that pattern, it
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday December 11, 2006 @06:41PM (#17200996) Homepage
    The current model for advertising costs is just wrong! The pricing structure needs to be one that doesn't inspire fraudulent activity. Print, radio and television advertisers cite circulation and ratings numbers. Web advertisers should cite some other "popularity" measure, but not necessarily one that inspires fraud. Google, for example, might be one such measure, but really, it should never be so precise as in number of hits. I think it should be something based essentially on the site's demographic and estimated audience as determined by some neutral third party. It'd be like the Neilson ratings in its own way. And let these third parties come up with their own trustworthy measurements and may the market gravitate to the best of those ratings companies.

    In this way, we would lose a great deal of fraud on the web simply because there will be lost incentive to have it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Bingo!

      There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics.

      Measure anything human activity with statistics and it can be fudged and defrauded.

      In this case, I think the more accurate measure would not be "web hits" but rather a measure of average time visiting said site. A pop-up ad is visted perhaps 1.2 seconds, while a legitimate site much longer, statistically speaking. Average clicks once on a site is another possible measure. Refering site is another item that can be used to uncover fraud.

      I t
      • There are a couple of issues, but I think paying for results will be the future of advertising. You'll pay for actual sales, or for advertising revenue actually generated.

        One way this could work would be for the advertiser to proxy the session. It could determine a sale was made and arrange appropriate payment. You don't want to have to trust the seller, or the advertiser.
    • The "problem" stems from the fact that HTTP was specifically designed to not allow servers to collect any meaningful information about you, the Web surfer, if you don't wish to cooperate. HTTP and any decent browser will allow you to completely turn off cookies, JavaScript, referring URL, browser identification, even mask your IP by using proxies.

      There's simply no 100% reliable method for a server to even tell that two "hits" in a row were from the same live person, let alone construct meaningful demographi
  • I'm surprised... (Score:3, Informative)

    by j-turkey (187775) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:02PM (#17201256) Homepage

    I'm surprised that it took this long for advertisers to figure out that popunders/popups increase traffic. Back around 2000 when I was working for dot-coms, the ad-revenue based groups lived and died by traffic ratings (unique page impressions, etc) like Jupiter Media Metrics. When popunders started to reach critical mass, x10.com was pushed from nowhere into the top 5 -- overnight. I'm sure it cost them a pretty penny, but the result was evident over 6 years ago.

    Let's hope that advertisers take another 6 years to catch onto the next big thing.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday December 11, 2006 @07:06PM (#17201298)
    One way to screw spammers would be for everyone to click on their links, then not buy anything. Spammers are paid by click-through counts. If companies start getting a lot of false click-throughs that they have to pay for, they'll soon either lower what they pay, or use other methods of bringing traffic to their sites. Lowered pay hurts the spammers when everyone then stops clicking through. The general concept is that if you can't ignore them, then bury them instead.
  • Would you 2.0 like to view my traffic statistics 2.0? I make 10 AJAX requests 2.0 per second when a visitor 2.0 is viewing a page on my site 2.0. It is perfectly legitimate 2.0, I assure you.
  • by teebob21 (947095) on Monday December 11, 2006 @08:19PM (#17202132) Journal

    How ironic that this story appeared today.

    Just last night, I was considering submitting a Ask Slashdot question on how other users deal with otherwise trustworthy sites that serve obtrusive popup/under ads. For example Merriam Webster's dictionary pages http://www.m-w.com/ [m-w.com] which I was directed to following a link in a ./ post. But I figured....popups? So 2001. Why bother the friendly folks with such a ancient topic?

    For those thinking I don't know how to manage my unwanted ad exposure, keep in mind I am running Firefox 2.0 with Pop-up blocking; typically a solid solution. The MW website, however, delivered 2 ads that broke past FF's utility. It left me with my old tactic: A good-old-fashioned "You just lost a customer" email. I have a text template to make the process quicker, so here's last nights email to the House of Definitions:

    To Whom it may concern:

    Please be advised that I will no longer be visiting your website nor advising it to my children or students. I visited your website today and was confronted with not one, but 2 popup ads on the definitions result page. One led me directly to http://www.vonage.com/startsavingnow/ [vonage.com] and the other was a kmart ad served by tribalfusion. Bear in mind that I use the Mozilla Firefox browser with Popup blocking active, and your website contains malicious code that defeats the pop-up window feature.

    The computer I use and the programs that I run belong to me, not to you. I have no issues with your Privacy Policy, and your cookie policy. I simply request that you communicate with your third-party providers to prevent them from displaying code on your website that hijacks your customer's browser in this manner. While you are not responsible for the advertising content in said ads, you are reponsible for the user experience when visiting your site. At the present, it is not an enjoyable experience for someone who does not wish to be deluged in advertising. In addition, by continuing to host code which overrides a core browser component makes your site a possible vector for virus/malware transmission, should either your server or the servers of one of your advertisers ever be compromised.

    I realize that advertising income supports your website, and more importantly your bottom line. The days when your core business was selling hardback dictionaries are over, and business models change.

    However, upon the visit to your page, I am confronted with 8 total ads; the two popup/popunder ads mentioned previously, one for Hostgator, 2 Google ads for a Scooby-Doo DVD, one large graphical ad for Qwest, and two tolerable text links to your affiliate partners. All I wanted was a definition...not a great deal on DSL service!

    As before, I will no longer be visiting or recommending your website or your products. There are other sources for the information you provide. In order for me to return, simple changes in your advertising strategy are requested, including the removal of popup/popunder advertising.

    Sincerely,
    Terry Hall

    We shall see what kind of response I get. The message has worked in the past with some smaller sites, including my local bank's website. Why they needed pop-ups for revenue, I'll never know.

    • by dreamlax (981973)
      Big deal. They have a big bowl of rice and you were just one grain. What they have left is still a bowl of rice.
    • by Shadyman (939863)
      I use http://dictionary.com/ [dictionary.com], their FF2 search-bar plugin is here: http://mycroft.mozdev.org/quick/dictionary.com.htm l [mozdev.org]. I use the first one listed.
    • by hicksw (716194)
      Try Opera - Press F12, select "Block all pop-ups" or "Block unwanted pop-ups".

      [How does it decide which ones are 'wanted'?]
      • The wanted ones are usually shown in response to a user action, typically clicking on a button (onclick) or pressing Enter on a button (onkeypress). Think of a pop-up calendar widget that allows you to select a date, a pop-up print window, or a pop-up authentication dialog box. Unwanted ones are shown automatically, such as when the page is finished loading (onload).
    • I just clicked on your m-w link above and there were no popups. Perhaps you have a spyware or virus issue?
      • Ditto here.

        In fact, I've used m-w.com since I can recall, and I've *never* seen a popup, or under for that matter.

        I think their PC has something else installed
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I just went to the Vatican website, and I got a Pope-up!!!
  • Am i missing something ? Or isn't this news?
  • Can't they just create any numbers they want? Why go to the trouble of faking the visitors if you can directly fake the numbers even more easily?

"Life is a garment we continuously alter, but which never seems to fit." -- David McCord

Working...