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America Online

AOL Class-Action Suit Over Pop-Up Ads 203

unigeek writes: "CNN -- Florida judge approves class-action lawsuit against America Online At issue: 'Pop-up' advertisements. A Florida judge has approved a class-action, multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the world's largest Internet service provider, America Online, on behalf of hourly subscribers who viewed so-called "pop-up" advertisements." I for one of dreamt of this day. It'll never win 'cuz you can turn them off of course, but it's pretty dang funny.
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AOL Class Action Suit over Pop-Up Ads

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  • Hey, I'm going to follow this. If this is crazy enough to work, I might find a judge that would let me sue Net Zero for making me look at pop-up ads.

  • as long as people keep fighting against abuse of power by companies like AOL and Microsoft, all is not yet lost.
  • Finally someone makes sense! I hated Pop up ads since I first saw them on the web, they are especially annoying on the pr0n sites!
  • by Dungeon Dweller ( 134014 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @03:42AM (#976483)
    What I would like to see, is a lawsuit against porn sites who grab the 100 most searched words and put them in their meta tags for search engines to find. I hate when I search for something that I need, and the first 20 pages are porn sites. If I was looking for "cum guzzling sluts," I think that I would have put that in as my search, now wouldn't I?
  • That is funny. Funny thing about pop up ads is how good they make banner ads look...I never really understood the philosophy behind them, it's "let's create as negative impression of our product as possible" and "if someone's browsing the web for news, logic seems to dictate that they'll want to sign up for our credit card." The credit card ads are the worst I think.
  • But just because you hate them, doesn't give you the right to go sue. If it did, i'd have sued Yahoo! for the "follow the page" Java popup adverts, my ISP for having a broken router that keeps going down all the time, people who stop dead in the middle of the street, and Microsoft.

    Honestly, i don't see how having to look at an anoying popup advert is any basis for a lawsuit.
  • I could be confused, but isn't NetZero a "free" service? Those poor people have to make money somehow (well, eventually anyway). I certainly prefer it where they gouge advertisers and not the user (AOL, of course, does both...). I have AllAdvantage and I am basically earning money for free, because I can just ignore their ads! B
  • I'm going to sue AOLuk over the number of times I've had to look at that stupid Connie. She really is evil and the thought of a school allowing kids to use AOL IM is just ridiculous.

    Now who will join me? ;o)

  • by crovax ( 98121 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @03:47AM (#976488)
    Not only did one of us get hitched,
    But now AOl is getting sued!
    I'm getting a little fuzzy headed.
    If my facts are wrong then tell me. I don't mind.
  • by Draoi ( 99421 ) <.draiocht. .at.> on Monday June 26, 2000 @03:48AM (#976489)
    Florida judge approves class-action lawsuit against America Online [snip] It'll never win 'cuz you can turn them off of course, but it's pretty dang funny.

    Ahh, but the attorney taking the case has also stated the following:

    "That's a new thing," he said. "Our lawsuit period goes back to 1994. That wasn't the case for the five-year period we're covering."

    So there's hope yet ......

    Here's a link to a detailed Irish Times article []

    Pete C
  • . "If you have kids and they read slowly, or they read each ad, that time adds up,"

    Does anyone else think that's ridiculous?

    If you ask me, this whole thing sounds like a weak attempt by the people who are pissed at the unlimited rate plan. I read an article a few months ago in Wired about how the volunteers who patrol chatrooms and the such are suing AOL for back wages!! [] They claimed that since they don't get free hours anymore they should be paid. I guess they forgot what Volunteer means.

  • Worse still, when you (ahem) accentally follow a link, not knowing its porn, and closing the window pops up more windows, and your like - godamn it no, I do not want anymore filth make it go away - thats what close means, it does not mean more gimmi more baby it means stop for the love of god stop...


  • I hope that AOL's defense of "it is user-configurable" gets tossed - it would set a nice precedent of companies being responsible for the default configuration of their software (can we sue MS for all the virii propagated by poor Outlook configurations?).
    Information wants to be free
  • by pb ( 1020 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @03:49AM (#976493)

    Now all we need is a rewritten and updated version of Dante's Inferno, and have it approved and endorsed by the pope!


    The telemarketers will be FORCED to sit in a room answering phones all day and POLITELY LISTEN to mind-numbingly BORING advertisements!!!

    Top AOL employees will have to DOWNLOAD programs to UPDATE their pitiful computers... only to have AOL CRASH on them, and give them BUSY signals!!

    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [].
  • by LaNMaN2000 ( 173615 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @03:49AM (#976494) Homepage
    Allowing pop-up ads is part of the AOL ToS. If people do not want pop-up ads, they should find a real ISP. I think I'm going to sue FreeWWWeb because of that annoying sound that the modem makes every time it connects :-)
  • I know for a fact that disabling popup windows can be fixed in any browser simply by disabling Javascript. But is this really an answer. The reason a browser has Javascript is so that extra features can be provided other than simple HTML.

    Maybe from a lawsuit like this, It may require browser makers to put in features to disable certain Javascript commands (ie for popup windows).

    But still, it's the Web Site that has control over ads and not the ISP, so I don't see this lawsuit really going to go anywhere.

  • ....about time something was done about possibly the most annoying annoyance on the internet.

    Not that I'm an AOL customer, or I ever visit pr0n sites... 8^)
  • Honestly, i don't see how having to look at an anoying popup advert is any basis for a lawsuit

    Well, if you are on AOL there is a good chance you are paying by the hour. That means that if it takes 3 extra seconds per popup add to load, and another 2 seconds to close it and get back to where you wanted to be, you've lost 5 seconds. So after 12 popup adds you've lost a minute. If you have to do that with say 24 popup adds a day you're losing 2 minutes a day, after a month you've lost an hour of time by being forced to close their popup ads. Also, the extra traffic reduces the overall performance of your connection. These may seem like really tiny petty things, and I think they are as well, but people ARE able to show damages, no matter how minute, by these popup ads, so they have a case.

  • But just because you hate them, doesn't give you the right to go sue

    Normally true, but in this case the point is that AOL is charging for every second you spend online, and effectively forcing subscribers to spend that time viewing ads they don't want.

    Sounds like they've got a pretty good case to me (although IANAL).

  • I also really hate this pop-ups, especially when big sites like aol uses them. But, don't dispare, there are a solution (except suing).

    There are a couple of utilities which will kill the pop-ups (they will even block banners), search or and you'll find it.
  • No, it is ridiculous. This just confirms to me that the majority of AOL users are dumb, and that lawyers will sue anyone for anything, even if they don't have a clue about the situation.

    Maybe we should tell them all that a space goat is about the eat the planet...
  • How is popping up an ad and making you click it abuse? AOL can do whatever it wants. People have choices in online services. In 1994 There was AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy and others. These people need to stop whining.
  • You're not confused. I just seem to think it's funny that people would try to sue over something so stupid. I was comparing this to suing NetZero because they're both stupid. I mean, that's like suing the car company for gas charges because you're too dumb to turn the engine off when you aren't needing it.

    Come on - don't complain that you're wasting online time when you're looking at ads that can be disabled. If you can't turn them off, you're dumb enough you need to pay... Think of it as a tax on stupidity.


  • This has nothing to do with generic web javascript popup ads on porn sites, warez sites, or what have you. This is an AOL feature, that AOL supplies, and AOL gets revenue from. I'm afraid that this won't stop porn sites from littering your desktop with windows, nor will it stop warez sites from doing the same. It will only change the behaviour of AOL to AOL subscribes. So don't get your panties in a bunch.
  • t would set a nice precedent of companies being responsible for the default configuration of their software

    Hey yeah! Then i can go sue Redhat for having an insecure default configuration, then the Gnome team because i think the default install is ugly, then Netscape/AOL again because Mozilla has a nasty default skin, then i can sue Andover because the default article reading setting isn't the way i like it....

    Oh, no, wait. That would be a stupid idea now wouldn't it?
  • by lari ( 96750 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @03:57AM (#976505)
    I believe that this isn't in reference to pop-up ads that one sees while "web-surfing", but to ads that come up when an AOL user logs on, after "6. Connecting to America OnLine. 7. Verifying Password" and before the AOL windows that let users check mail, go to different "channels", access AOL's browser, et cetera appear. Basically, while these ads are on the screen, you can't do anything except either follow them or click "No, thanks." It's not quite as simple as disabling Javascript in Netscape or MSIE. (Although I doubt a lot of AOL users could handle that easily... ah, well.)

    There is *no* obvious, or even semi-obvious, way to turn off the pop-up ads -- most people I know who use AOL just endure and ignore. Granted, each release of AOL gets less and less intuitive to use (2.5 was fairly straight-forward, 3.0 slightly less so, 4.0 I never did figure out how to find the things I used (basics like FTP), and now that 5.0's appeared I've lost any semblance of hope at getting anything done *that* way on my mother's computer.)

    However, I have around 200 AOL cds in the back of my car, in display boxes. This makes me happy.
  • "AOL reaps millions and millions of dollars each year in advertising revenue because it has this captive audience of subscribers who are bombarded with these ads"

    This says it all. Even going back to 1994 when the users didn't have the option to turn off the ads (allegedly - I dont' use AOL, so I don't know for sure) they were still free to change ISPs. But the lawer still calls the audience captive.
  • I've been tellign AOL users this stuff sucked for years! Just change darnit! (See: free-market-economy)
  • by nosilA ( 8112 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:02AM (#976508)
    Tramont said the practice amounts to charging twice for the same product. "AOL gets money from advertisers, then money from subscribers, so they're making double on the same time," he said.

    I hate to bust this wonderful anti-AOL bubble, but newspapers have been doing this for years. Same with Cable TV, if I have to watch commercials while watching that CNN i pay $50/month to watch, they are wasting my time. If you say pop-ups are worse because you have to actually do something proactive to make them go away, well it's the same as a whole page ad, where you have to turn the page.

    I'm not saying this class action lawsuit will not result in victory for the class, but if it does, someone in Florida really ought to try suing a newspaper on this same precedent.


  • by Builder ( 103701 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:02AM (#976509)
    I have nothing against banner ads. They used to pay my salary. As long as they're non-intrusive and relevant to the audience of the site, I think they're great.

    But then you look at things like a recent levis campaign. Every time you went to the home page of a site you got to be the proud downloader of between 80 and 100k of flash video for a popup levis ad. And you'd be sitting reading something, and it pops up right over what you're reading. Now this is intrusive and is starting to interfere with my browsing experience.

    What's even worse is the Compaq non-stop campaign. My natural reaction to a popup ad is to click the x in the corner and kill it. The idea behind the compaq ad, was Compaq are non-stoppable. So they made their ad KEEP coming back up about 4 or 5 times. This is just plain annoying and adds stress and extra mouse movement to my already ruined wrists and my already stressed life. I don't need this.

    So I guess, yeah, lawsuits are dumb, but as what happened with the Prof vs Demon where they settled, maybe this will scare the hell out of advertisers and sites that use this kind of advertising, and we'll all have a more pleasant browse experience.
    /* Wayne Pascoe
  • Oh please, take some responsibility for yourself. If you run around running everything you receive in e-mail you're gonna get burnt.

    You could find a problem of one degree in almost all software's default configs. Not just AOL or MS.
  • ...and that lawyers will sue anyone for anything, even if they don't have a clue about the situation.

    That's because lawyers are hired guns. You pay them money, they sue somebody for you. Aim your ire at the people who's name is on the suit, not the lawyers who did the gruntwork.


  • On one hand, it is not hard to laugh in glee over how AOL is getting sued.

    But the lameness of the suit just begs to be flamed. Why are AOL customers expressing their software behaviour preferences through a lawsuit? 2000 years of civilization, and the only way a collective groups of AOL (l)users can figure out how to ask for the ads to be placed at the END of the session is through a lawsuit. Why could they not have learnt to talk to AOL in a civilized manner? Software is a flexible thing. It is plastic, programmable, not set in stone, and their relationship to AOL is valuable enough that some kind of bargaining can be set up. Why make lawyers rich?

  • But the question becomes, how captive are they? Not to mention the fact you've been able to use your own browser for a long time now. Then you have the AOL cliest minimized and you don't even see it. As for junk, why aren't these people suing the users that spam them when they are in chatrooms? I recall chatting one evening and getting about 35 emails in an hour from spammers. That's much more annoying than popup ads.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:06AM (#976514) Homepage
    First off, this lawsuit goes back to 1994, long before popup ads could be turned off.

    Secondly, the ability to turn the ads off isn't particularly simple to find(remember, this is a service that built its success on knowing exactly how to make things simple to find; anything that wasn't simple within AOL was made intentionally not simple.

    Finally, and this is important, the ads would come back on their own. In security, we make things a pain in the ass when we want to convince the users to use a more secure alternative(i.e. ssh-agent and RSA keys vs. passwords at every prompt). For AOL, it's "Watch the ads, and you won't have to keep turning them off."

    They'll settle out of court; they really don't want their advertising dirty laundry getting aired. Remember, this is the company that got UCITA in their state before anyone else.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • It's the same idea -- I pay for programming, but I can't see the content I'm paying for until the ads are over or until a push a button (to close the ad, or in the case of TV, change the channel). Would you get away with suing a cable company on these grounds? I doubt it. AOL has smart enough lawyers to bring up this fact, and then make themselves look like good guys by showing how you can turn off the ads altogether, something you can't do with cable. Just my 2 cents.
  • My wife's first experience with the Internet, was when she (with my 4 year old daughter) was looking up my daughter's favorite show "Dragon Tails" Which happens to be a kids cartoon about dragons. My wife typed in "" because she didn't know about search engines, and thought that's what you do. You can just imagine what showed up!

    When I came home, she told me how she hates the internet because of the filth. She was horrified because every time she closed a window another one popped up that was even more explicit. She ended up just turing off the computer to stop it. I have since taught her to use Google. And to read the hits before clicking the link.

    But this is what gives the Internet a bad rap. I don't believe in censoring at all. But there should be a law that prevents being forced into it. There should be a top level domain for adult sites and a law against automatically moving you to the site, since you know the first thing the pr0n industry will do is take a non adult TLD and have it switch you to their site.

    Sorry for the rant but something has to be done before the government goes to censorship.
    Steven Rostedt
  • Cool. As you can tell I don't use AOL.

    I have a solution... Don't use AOL! Worked for me.
  • Keyword: Marketing Preferences. Not perfect, but it's the solution that AOL will use as its defense in this case. And AOL will win, easily.
  • by oh shoot ( 79863 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:10AM (#976519) Homepage
    how would I get even with these idiots, to punish them for this stupid groundless lawsuit?

    Give them lifetime subscriptions to my own service.

  • Let's suppose you're a lawyer in need of a few million bucks, or just greedy (note to lawyers: I'm not slandering you as a class!!!).

    • Here's how you make it:
    • Find a large group (as large as possible!) which all use one product. Preferably, the product should be used in more than one consumer-used device (such as floppy drives used in many brands of laptops).
    • Make sure that at some time, some documented problem was announced regarding the targeted product. The problem doesn't have to have actually done any damage -- the target of the suit need only be afraid of negative publicity.
    • Announce a class action suit.
    • Wait for the targeted company to calculate their costs (legal costs to defend against the suit, PR costs, downtime, need to keep and provide copies of every piece of paper -- or e-mail message -- from that moment on, etc.), and decide on a quick settlement.
    • Quietly announce the settlement, but don't bother to notify the end-users on whose behalf you supposedly are bringing this suit.
    • Collect your huge fee (a hefty percentage of the ENTIRE settlement -- more than any thousand of the suckers for whose protection you supposedly sued).
    • Using a tiny fraction of your part of the settlement, outsource the rest of the work.
    • Repeat as necessary (i.e., find new target product).

    The solution to these ridiculous suits is to pass Federal (or State?) law(s?) to limit the percentage of fees lawyers can rake off class action suits, for example, to cover all documented costs of their suit plus no more than what 5-10 end-users of the product will receive.

    Btw, Ralph Nader is running for President this year on the Green Party ticket; maybe we could all make lots of noise about that and ask him to include this splinter (well, it's hardly a plank, now is it?) in his platform?

  • There is *no* obvious, or even semi-obvious, way to turn off the pop-up ads

    Go to keyword "Marketing Preferences" and uncheck it. It's on the New User Tour (or at least used to be).

    What's really annoying is that now AOL resets your marketing preferences every year, so you have to uncheck them annually [].

  • correct, search for "Junkbuster junkbstr.exe"
  • Somehow, I don't think this lawsuit could have covered every single popup ad from everyone's web site. IIRC, AOL had its own popup ads that would appear whenever you logged on. They'd typically say something like, "Hi! We noticed you haven't bought your copy of America Online For Dummies yet. Would you like to buy your copy now? [] Yes [] No Thanks" Personally, I think there should have been a couple more check boxes there: "[] No, because I already paid for AOL this month [] No, and don't bother me with anything similar [] Who else is AOL for?"

    I haven't used AOL since 1996, when I got a real ISP, but their popup ads were one of the main reasons I left them. (The spam was another.) If they can't afford to provide the service I've requested at the price they agreed to charge me, and they have to put annoying popup ads in to try and get more money out of my pocket, then their business model is flawed. I should go after my credit card company for annoying me with credit card insurance plans, travel clubs, shopping clubs, and car insurance. But that's a whole other topic.

  • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:16AM (#976525) Homepage
    I HATE pop up ads. I realy do. But one thing that is getting lost in all this is that these ads pay for "service" or information that we want.

    I'm sure almost everyone is used to banner ads, and ignores them most of the time. but relize that someone or something has to pay to get a web site up, and these ads help to pay for it.. As internet companies struggle to make profits these ads are going to become more important (also as click through rates continue to drop...)

    But I'lm willing to accept the ad to get at information on the net I want for free (as in beer). It would really suck if you had to pay for content each time you accessed it.

    ads are a better way.

  • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:16AM (#976526) Journal

    I think about 90% of the problems like this could be prevented if browser writers would include two configuration options: allow the user to choose whether the browser can open up new windows and whether the browser will follow redirects. Or at least pop up a yes/no box every time the browser wants to do so.

    Is this supported or hackable into mozilla?

  • while this lawsuit seems somewhat silly to me...i mean, most of us realize that this particular suit has little chance of doing anything but getting the ball rolling on a much larger issue at stake: advertising windows that pop up automatically. sure you can turn them off within AOL's fantasy world, but what happens when you accidentaly follow a link to a somewhat "shady" site? on occasion, you will be bombarded with 15 pop-up ad windows and other various types of pop-ups. beyond this they continue popping up quicker than you can close them. now i'll admit, you're not likely to come across this stuff unless you're searching for some obscure stuff, but still i for one get pretty ticked off during one of those deluges. so what does this AOL suit mean now?
  • by RPoet ( 20693 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:20AM (#976528) Journal
    Have you ever watched an absolute newbie trying to read some web pages? The first thing they try to click is the banner ads. I often find myself explaining, "no, don't click there, that's just an ad". Of course, gaining experience, they learn to seperate ads from real content, but it does take time.

    Pop-up banner ads are probably even more efficient in this respect :)

  • by _vapor ( 55645 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:21AM (#976529) Homepage
    The difference, though, is the hourly rate. By viewing an ad in the newspaper, the newspaper does not begin to cost you more because it takes longer to read. With AOL, every time you view an ad, you pay more since you pay by the hour (usually). I'm not sure that AOL should be sued over this, though -- when you pay AOL for their service you should be aware of the possibility of ads, just like when you pay for a newspaper. It's just part of the cost. If there were no ads in newspapers, it might be less annoying, but then again, you'd be paying a couple dollars for every paper.
  • When I cancelled my AOL account after almost 5 years of subscription, the CSR naturally asked, "Why?" Among other things, one answer was that I had finally gotten tired of all the ads.

    You can indeed turn off a number of advertisements, but you can't escape all the little banners that now litter their interface. In addition to the average user having to go through more steps to get from point A to B than previously, each step is almost guaranteed to have a least 1 small ad graphic that will be loaded. Not that anyone's likely to click through, but talk about counting eyeballs!!

    Re: the captive audience; I can't speak for today, but I've known a number of people for whom AOL was the only local access point. Much as I dislike AOL, there may be those for whom it is literally the only game in town.

  • I thought about adding something that would prevent windows from being opened when the page was being closed - so that within the "page closed" JavaScript event (forget what it's called) attempting to open more windows will always fail. Or you can set it to prompt - although I think that would get annoying after a while.
  • by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:26AM (#976532) Homepage Journal
    All that you say just suggests that AOL don't provide a very good value service. That's not a reason to sue them.
    The best thing you can do if you don't like it is to change ISP and tell AOL why you changed. If enough people care about this issue, they will do the same and AOL will be forced to act.
    In the end, all they are doing is offering a service (which includes pop up ads) and they are offering it at a price. You get to choose whether the service as a whole is better or worse value than competing services.
    This really is a minor issue which can and will be easily solved by the free market as long as people do something constructive about it (such as changing ISP if they are not happy) rather than trying to restrict the freedoms ISPs Just because YOU don't like what they offer doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to offer it.

  • Ah yes, the "bright shiny objects" principle in action.
  • It would be nice, but the problem here is that AOL doesn't listen to the end-luser. All complaints and suggestions are moved to /dev/null for future reference.
  • Easy choice....ditch AOL, use Squid [] and SquidGuard [] to filter whatever in the hell you don't want displayed.
  • The difference is that I don't pay by the hour to watch cable -- and that I can change the channel to find a network that's not showing commercials at that moment. Yeah, I can play a few cards in FreeCell while I'm waiting for an ad to load in AOL -- but I can't use a web browser, telnet, IRC, check my mail, FTP a few files, or do much of anything else.
  • by kwsNI ( 133721 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:38AM (#976537) Homepage
    What's really funny about it is that the pr0n ads on warez sites are for pay sites. Yeah! Like I'm not going to pay for software but I will pay for porn.

  • This machine is used mainly by my wife and kids, and I have my own production machine that I use for work.

    But unfortunately, I can't turn javascript off. Well I can, but the sites my family visits won't work. This irritates me that normal family sites require javascript to navigate the site. One that comes to mind, is Mattel's (Now that site could have turned up something else, luckly it didn't :) But to use it you need javascript turned on. There are several other sites that this is the case, and my wife is not too computer literate to keep turning javascript on and off.

    As for banner ads, they don't bother me or my family as long as they are on topic and not pr0nographic.
    Steven Rostedt
  • No, when I enter into an agreement with AOL, I agree to pay a certain amount of $/unit of time in exchange for access to their network. I do not agree to be bombarded with bandwith hogging ads, especially when they cut into my time and hinder me from surfing somewhere else all the while being charged time to view the ads.
  • I believe the difference between TV/newspapers and this is that other companies provide net access without advertising for the same price or less. But then again, AOL users are either just plain stoopid, or suckers.
  • I don't think AOL's pops are manipulated by your Explorer/Navigator script preference settings. My impression (not being an AOL-ite) is that AOL's client software delivers and manages the pop up windows. I don't even know if they use javascript to perform the pops.

    But as most people note, pop up windows are one of the more annoying "features" of the Web. You can disable scripting languages, but then you lose a bunch of functionality that depends on javascript. I've found filtering programs like Proxomitron's [] very helpful since you can block some scripts (and some HTML and HTTP elements) by function.

  • One of the things that I have noticed speeds up page viewing times dramatically is to reject cookies from specific sites, and to outright block all content from certain ad providers completely. This is easily done via any number of proxies.

    Of course, for those impaired by windows, there are a number of software "cookie munchers" that work just this way (as a software proxie)

    Sadly(?) there are a few site that will not load at all if you block the ad sites completely, because of the way the main sites are brought up via momentary redirection to the ad company servers.

    It is amazing how fast a page loads when you are not wasting bandwidth on cookies and other net junk

  • crazy as it may sound.. and annoying as they are.. which i do agree with.. pop up ads keep a lot of web services and sites free, or cheaper than they would be. advertising is the only real revenue generator that a lot of sites have. i cant agree with aol, but lets all not sue the free internet providers. thanks.
  • by Cato ( 8296 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @04:50AM (#976544)
    What would be useful is if someone did a Junkbuster clone or enhancement (see, it's a proxy server that just filters ads currently) that could also edit out selected Javascript (e.g. the on-close event).

    Ideally this could be done based on whether a site was trusted - e.g. could be allowed to do cleanup stuff in its on-close event, but an unknown & untrusted site would simply not get that event in the Javascript it actually ran.

    Does anyone know of an open source tool that does this?
  • This really is a minor issue which can and will be easily solved by the free market as long as people do something constructive about it (such as changing ISP if they are not happy) rather than trying to restrict the freedoms ISPs Just because YOU don't like what they offer doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to offer it.

    I absolutely agree, I was just explaining why the lawsuit won't immediately be laughed out of court, as much as it might deserve that fate.

  • If you are using IE4 or IE5, you can set per-zone security attributes, e.g. allow Javascript for certain sites that you know are OK, but disallow for other sites.
  • Although not an AOL user myself, i think someone else pointed out farther down that you do agree to the ads, as they are part of the AOL user agreement. If you don't like that, most people do have the choice to use a Real ISP.
  • if you don't want to view doubleclick's ads, just point to in your hosts file. That way, your browser will never be able to find their ads!
  • That's because lawyers are hired guns. You pay them money, they sue somebody for you. Aim your ire at the people who's name is on the suit, not the lawyers who did the gruntwork.

    Sorry, doesn't work that way. I find assassins just as guilty as the people who hire them. Same thing for a frivolous lawsuit. "Just doing my job" might be a legal defence, but it's never a moral defence.
    Ofcourse you are right that we should blame the people behind he lawsuit too.

  • This is pretty dumb.

    1. It IS easy to change marketing preferences (keyword preferences; click on marketing)

    2. They do NOT come back on after a period of time, since I've never seen them since turning them off for my family years ago.

    3. The vast majority of AOL users are on the "unlimited plan" now so there's no real issue of double-charging (though if this suit dates back to 1994 I guess there might be some merit there)

    4. Lots of other services do this: cable TV, pre-paid phone cards, magazines (you mean I have to PAY for the paper it's printed on?)

    Something about this suit seems fishy, like a publicity stunt. There's a bunch of other seemingly frivolous class action suits underway too (see link at bottom of CNN article). Can anybody figure out the conspiracy theory?
  • by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @05:11AM (#976563) Homepage Journal

    Pop-ups do suck, but why complain when you can just get rid of them? I've had web pop-ups disabled for a long time; I do it with a cute piece of freeware called "Proxomitron": []

    It has a lot of other (configurable) usability/privacy enhancements like disabling animated gifs and blink, not letting javascript use the status bar, etc. Plus, you can write your own regular-expression based filters!

    Too bad it's only for windows; but I don't think it would be too hard for a Posix version to exist. Perhaps something like it already does.

  • It's a slightly different situation here in the UK (assuming you're not in the UK) - we have the BBC (1,2,3,4,5,6 and 7, of course), so we pay a licence fee for that service, and they don't show adverts. The commercial stations don't have a fee, and they show ads. A number of subscription-only cable channels don't show ads, but some do. They shouldn't, and AOL shouldn't, because users are already paying for the service. I don't object when a 'free' TV station (I use quotes because in the UK you HAVE to pay the licence fee just for owning a TV set, but I digress) shows ads, because that's how they generate revenue to run a service I use but don't pay for. If I was paying for internet access and the provider kept hitting me with pop-ups on top of that, I'd be annoyed. If a free ISP used them, I'd live with it. It's like, say, Geocities vs., say, Demon - you don't pay for Geocities, so you put up with their ad layer. You pay Demon, so you wouldn't tolerate ads there.
  • by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @05:19AM (#976568) Homepage Journal
    I used to think it was keyword spamming too (and maybe it is to some extent). Then I started using the new version of analog which gives me a report of the search terms which users use to arrive at my site. Here's one day's results:

    reqs: search term
    ----: -----------
    14: quake 3 stuff
    5: scanterm
    3: human copulation pictures
    2: wordlist.txt
    2: cannibalism snuff
    2: genital jewelry
    1: akasha
    1: aluminize
    1: quake 3 levels
    1: emazing
    1: antigravity backpack borscht
    1: barmy badger backpackers
    1: ssachs
    1: axolotl adaptions
    1: directory listing mp3
    1: aerometer
    1: wordlist barons
    1: argumentive analysis of advertisements
    1: isthmus algorithm
    51: [not listed: 51 search terms]

    "barmy badger backpackers"?? Fully 75% of these searches have NOTHING to do with my site, and I do not keyword spam in any way.

    Maybe, when search engines get bored or tired, they just return more or less random results? ;)
  • by linuxci ( 3530 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @05:19AM (#976569)
    If you want to filter banner ads out a simple way to do it with most browsers is to use the Internet Junkbuster [] filtering proxy, or if you're using a fairly recent release of Mozilla [] you can use their image manager (Edit | Advanced | Cookies and Images or Tasks | Privacy | Image Manager) which lets you specify hosts that you'd rather not display images (such as, or you can only allow images that appear from the site you're viewing or you can selectively allow images by means of an interactive dialog (a similar management system applies for cookies). Hopefully the image manager will be included with the next release of Netscape 6 as it's a useful ad blocking feature.
  • by Deega ( 41540 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @05:32AM (#976577)
    IIRC, when AOL was charging by the hour there were two states your session could be in: free and non-free. Stuff like reading pop-ups were in the free section. I also believe things like reading your mail were free, while sending mail was a premium service. To recieve an instant message was free, to send one was not.

    Hell, there was even software designed to specifically keep you in the "free" section of AOL for as long as possible during your session
  • Believe it or not, there are people who use AOL for five hours or less every month (for things like e-mail and visiting the occasional web site). At $9.95 per month, and about $2 for every hour after the first five, they get a better deal that way.
  • I mentioned in an earlier post about the image and cookie management features in Mozilla [] (Edit | Preferences | Advanced | Cookies and Images). These make it fairly simple to the moderate to advanced user to block the most frequently annoying ads (, etc) however still above the level of the newbie.

    What I'd like to see is an ISP that promotes itself by offering an ad blocking service (using something such as the Junkbuster proxy [] as these ads are very irritating to those on slow connections, however I never block ads myself as I understand how many sites would not be able to operate without the income these generate, but if I was on a modem then I'd see things differently particularly if I was paying call charges.

    I'd also like to see a feature [] where Mozilla could automatically download a blocklist from a user specified central server periodically. This would be for blocking ad images and perhaps cookies and not websites. This feature would havew to be switched on by the user and they could select the server they trust to maintain the blocklist (or companies and organisations could maintain their own).

  • The best part is that many banner ads are now disguised as little HTML design elements (text boxes and whatnot) and dialog boxes ("Warning: Your Internet connection is not optimized! [OK]") that look perfectly innocent to the end-user. When the newbie clicks OK to dismiss the dialog box, he's redirected to an advertiser's site. When he gets confused and clicks "Back" to return to the web site, he's assaulted with (surprise) a pop-up ad.

    Banner ads not only don't work for newbies, they introduce the possibility of *scaring* the newbies as well.
  • I hope that AOL's defense of "it is user-configurable" gets tossed - it would set a nice precedent of companies being responsible for the default configuration of their software (can we sue MS for all the virii propagated by poor Outlook configurations?).

    Yeah, then I could sue RedHat for their default installation being insecure since it almost lost me my job in the 3 days it took me to get all of the upgrades and patches applied that I needed.
    Yeesh.... It's not RedHat's fault that someone found my open system before I finished patching all of the known security problems.

  • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Monday June 26, 2000 @06:17AM (#976591)
    new pop-up ad for AOL, Fall 2000:

    We notice you're downloading an illegal copy of the new Britney Spears album. Wouldn't you rather buy the CD at the AOL/Warner Online Music store?
    [] YES []NO


    Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Monopolies offer Choice!
  • Slashdot uses a particularly hard version of banner ads to stop with junkbuster ( because they are coming from just like the icons.

    If you want to get rid of them, add this to your sblock.ini:

    The '~' negates whatever proceeds it. In this case, you are allowed to view

  • ^^^^---- Moderate this up!!

    Is the pay-per hour still done that way? Or now that you have the choice of unlimited rate or paying per hour, have they stopped such "free" services. Seems like having ad time not count towards your hours would totally invalidate this lawsuit. If nothing else, agreeing to turn such feature back on would be a possible way to avoid the lawsuit for AOL.
  • It's not banner ads on the internet that are bad. In the case of your site, nobody disputes it.
    The difference between what you do and what AOL does is huge though.
    You do not charge me money to see your site.

    AOL *does* charge money to use their service.
    Why should I have to pay to watch ads?
  • AdSubtract ( can be setup to filter popups while leaving legit javascript pretty much unaffected. I've been using it for a while now, it ROCKS!
  • When I was at Microsoft, I actually suggested a feature to some people in the IE team, which (unfortunately) got dubbed the "porn button."

    It was supposed to work just like the Opera button that lets you instantly toggle between your default colors/font/backgrounds and the ones on the annoying site you're browsing.

    This would just be a quick toggle button that would enable/disable Javascript and other annoying technologies while you are browsing on some annoying site. IE5 takes a full minute to change the "advanced" options to effect this change. UGH!
  • Why did you connect your Linux box to the net knowing that you still had security holes to patch?

    There would be the issue of obtaining the aforementioned patches. I couldn't find any 'Complete up to the minute RedHat 6.0 Patch CD' for sale anywhere. So I had to download and apply all of the ones I needed. They had to come from somewhere. Where would YOU Suggest I get them?

  • The reason why these things are everywhere is that to a certain degree, they do work. So does spam.

    I mean, I'd love to see the web logs for just to see the refer stats from slashdot because of your post...
  • I have only a few minutes of experience with AOL, and that was a long time ago, so I can't say how their payment plans work. With as little as I know about the case and AOL in general, I would say that the case against AOL is very weak as long as AOL's contracts with the users were not misleading or blatantly false. For example, if AOL said to the user "pay us $X.XX per hour and you get everything commercial-free" and then used pop-up ads, they would not be abiding by their contract. If the contract said nothing at all about pop-up ads, well, "buyer beware". There is no warning on newspapers that say "this paper is ad-free", but on the other hand, there is no reason to believe that the newspaper will have ads. When you purchase the paper, you take the risk of having to deal with advertisements.

    Now, if there is some microscopic line in the contract that says, "AOL reserves the right to advertise" or something similar, then really, there is no case against AOL, as the user has been warned.

    Your idea about having ad time not count towards your hours seems ok, but I can see a lot of problems coming from it. For example, a pop-up ad takes 2 seconds to load on my Athlon with a university T1 connection. On my Pentium 60 over a modem, though, it might take 10 seconds. How do you subtract from online time when there is such a huge discrepancy in the speed and capability between different computers and/or connections? It would be very complicated.

    The logic in this suit against AOL seems extremely tenuous. It seems like you could make a couple logical leaps and be at the point where you could sue AOL because you can only read 3 web pages per minute, while someone else can read 10. Just because you are a slow reader, you could make the argument that you are getting less value for your money than some other speed-reader, no? I guess my point is that AOL surely has all kinds of caveats imbedded in their contracts that either explicitly or implicitly nullify any such claims of lower performance and/or less time "well spent" using it's services.

  • Perhaps it is a sign of the times that a class-action lawsuit is brought against an ISP. Could it be that, especially in rural areas, AOL is truly the only game in town? Due to the lack of sophistication by the user, they may really believe that they have no other option then to stick with AOL. Since the class-action suit is being allowed, isn't this a sort of de-facto admission that AOL is big enough to do 'bad' things like this?

    Obviously the better solution is for someone to create a different ISP that keeps its users happier, but that gets back to the technical sophistication part. There isn't enough of a marget in Dullvsille to support the staff of a new ISP, and the mid-sized ISP's aren't going to want the support headaches -- they'd be pumping a disproportionate amount of money into their low-revenue areas.
  • I am a lawyer, but his is not legal adivce. If you need legal advice, consult an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

    That is usually the case (though htere are ethical rules about frivolous actions). However, in a class action, it *is* the lawyers doing the choosing and suing. They have to find a representative agent, but it's really a matter of deciding to file a class action, and then finding someone who can be part of the class to be the named plaintiff.

    It is *rare* that the class gets anything comparable to what teh attorneys receive. Typically, the attorneys get paid in full as part of the settlement, while the class gets pennies on the dollar for their purported (often silly) claim, or a coupon. The *only* exception I know is about Iomega's failure to pay their rebates (which is also the only class action I can think of offhand that should have been filed in the first place . . .)

    hawk, esq.
  • Get a load of this. The oldest e-mail message I still have around, from 1982, talking about my first experience on Compuserve at $5.00+$2.00/hour and how it took me an hour just to do one thing cause of all of the "waiting..."

    Yes, this is on topic. AOL users have nothing to bitch about. I should sue for all of the wasted time spent on CIS, 300 baud, at $7.00/hour! :)

    (B6900 refers to a Burroughs 6900...)

    Date: Thu, 24 Jun 1982 22:04
    From: Ken Weaverling >>>---> Ken <47869 @ UCSC-Site>
    To: Bob Rahe <BOB @ UCSC-Site&gt
    Subject: Re: Monitor
    In-Reply-To: Your message of 24 Jun 1982 09:19
    Message-ID: <0322.06.24.1982.22.04.44 @ UCSC-Site>

    This terminal is quite nice for $399. It's an RCA. It has a modem built in, color graphics, and sound from 14 Hz to 230 KHz. (Why the heck do you need 230 KHz. I probably can't hear past 15KHz.) It even has a white noise generator. (Don't ask why).

    The graphics are pretty HI-RES, 240x192, but it takes forever to draw at 300 baud. One could make impressive graphs but one won't ever see Pac-Man here! You can also hook up a cassette recorder to store a heck of a lot of data for off-line viewing.

    I got a free hour on CompuServe with it. Ever been on that? They say it's simple, but it took me the whole hour just to look for one thing. The say it's menu driven. GEEEEEEZZ, they must have their menu's nested 50 levels deep!

    I was looking for the multi-user Star-Trek game that I read about. Also the CB simulation (Randall probably wrote it).

    The story of my quest:

    After drifting thru 10 pages of menus, I found the newspapers that were on-line, so I choose New York Times. They wouldn't print the %&$#& thing out unless I subscribed! The subscription was free but they wanted name, add.... I said "SCREW IT". I could imagine how many menu's were on the other side of that subscription.

    Now I had to "back up" thru the menus before I could move on. After another 10 mins. I found the home entertainment menu! I was getting closer. I didn't see Star-Trek but I did see "ELIZA - Artificial Intelligence". I decided to try it out, real quick.

    This program CompuServe has (called DISPLA) is polite. Instead of saying #SCHED 1234 it says "Please wait. I am processing your request." Sure, I think that the computer down there realizes that it's getting paid by the hour. After 2-3 mins., it starts "Tell me what's on your mind." After 5 mins I was ready to leave, "QUIT, BYE, STOP, " nothing worked. She just kept saying, "Your "Tell me what's on your mind." After 5 mins I was ready to leave, "QUIT, BYE, STOP, " nothing worked. She just kept saying, "Your being short with me.". I was getting desperate, I started punching all the control codes I could. I stoped the program but I hung the terminal. Oh, well. Call back. Back to the first menu page. But I was getting better, I typed "GO HOM" and I went straight to the home entertainment section. After about 200 more menus (estimate) I found "CB simulation"! Quick, read doc. Got it, run CB. "Please wait......". After 5 mins it comes back "Your free hour is up. Would you like to subsribe?".

    All that and I never saw the program. For $5.00/hr plus $2 for Telenet, they can forget it.


    >>>----> Ken

  • You get them from RetHat's site. Using a machine that is secure. And put them on a floppy. Duh.

    Oh gee yes, I'll just fire up this SECOND computer I have laying over here that just happens to have a secure install of RH on it already. Silly me, why didn't I think of that....
    We don't all have multiple linux boxen strewn about our homes.

  • Hasn't there been discussion before about getting an adult TLD like ".red"? I never seems to really get off the ground.

    Umm, has it occurred to anyone else that "red" means "network" in Spanish?


  • I believe this was actually made illegal in the state of Arizona. It might just be proposed legislation; I'm not sure if it's passed yet.


  • What I would like to see, is a lawsuit against porn sites who grab the 100 most searched words and put them in their meta tags for search engines to find

    What actually happens is extortion. There are mafia-like organizations that jump on any "legitimate" domain name that is let expire (maybe because the original owner did not pay the registration fee in time) or domain names that have a familiar ring to it. They then add a site under this domain name, filled with porn or other "inflammable" material. Often, real companies do not want to be associated with the filth, and then pay money to get hold of the domain name.

    For instance, my company had a product line named "Amplitaq Gold", and a website ''. Not exactly the kind of domain name you would come up with out of the blue. The domain was let expire after we didn't need it any more; the day after it was filled with pointers to a porn site in Russia.

    To make matters worse, searches on Altavista for terms related to our company, our product lines etc would invariably turn up pointers to this stuff.

    We got the domain name back through legal action. However, not everybody would go through that hazzle, and would rather buy the domain name back even if it meant giving in to the Russian mafia.

  • I may hate AOL with the fire of a thousand suns, but I completely agree with you.

    Nobody wins in class action lawsuits, except for a bunch of crooked lawyers. Here in Minnesota, some people are actually shocked that Mike Cerreci and his golf buddies made off with most of the loot from the anti-tobacco lawsuit, then used most of that money to run "Humphrey for Governor" and "Cerreci for Senator" campaigns. It's all a big con-job.

    Sure as you can't steer a train, AOL is going to settle this case, lots of people who didn't even know they were plaintifs will get checks for $.50 in the mail, and the lawyers will move on to the next zebra to twist its ankle. (My guess... beer and liquer companies.)

  • And you were talking about work, not home. Is this really your very first computer at work? In 2000? No wonder they almost fired you.

    No, I was not talking about work dumbass. I was talking about my home machine.
    Yeesh... It's a rather long story but someone compromised my home machine and used it to attack someone, when I logged into my home machine from work to get some work done it got traced back to there and they called the company I work for.

  • Thanks for the pointer, but Intermute is not open source, and it's also a bit dodgy in that it appears to send extra info to the vendor's Internet site on occasion (allegedly).
  • Is this supported or hackable into mozilla?

    I don't think it's supported yet - bugzilla bug 29346 []. not exactly what you're asking for, but pretty similar and with the same intent (not get trapped by annoying sites). you might post on that bug (or make a new bug) the idea of limiting redirects in addition to limiting popup windows.

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's