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America Online

Pop-Up Ads Begin To Face Serious Opposition 545

guttentag writes "The New York Times is running an article that looks at the ways AOL is trying to reinvent itself. Apparently, as customers began terminating their accounts and revenue dropped, AOL tried to make up the lost revenue by increasing the frequency of its popup ads. But the level of consumer satisfaction just seemed to plummet, so AOL's president formed a task force to study the problem. It found that focus group satisfaction went up "notably" when the number of popups was cut in half. As a result, AOL has scaled back (but not eliminated) the popups and it says this has been a catalyst for revolution within the company." Combine this with the recent announcement from iVillage and who knows - maybe more content providers will see the light - the light that readers don't like to be forcibly diverted from what they are doing.
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Pop-Up Ads Begin To Face Serious Opposition

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  • by sllort ( 442574 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:22AM (#4011703) Homepage Journal
    What? You didn't think I was serious?
    • Seriously. I wish Advertisers use pop-up ads, atleast we know how to kill them. If they find that pop-up/under is not working, they will come up with new ways to be intrusive, Like showing a full-page ad before directing to the actual page we clicked. Ads taking 90% of the page, so that we have to click 10 "next" pages just to read a small article.

      Its like "You sing so well, You should be on radio(atleast I can switch channels) situation


      • by cjpez ( 148000 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:41AM (#4011841) Homepage Journal
        atleast we know how to kill them
        That's true. I haven't seen one popup ad since Mozilla implemented the "no popups I didn't request" feature. I always find it a little strange when people complain about popup ads, because I often forget they even exist. So long as advertisers are using 'em instead of huge banner ads, I'll be happy. Not that you can't block the banner ads, too, but that's more work. Right now I click on one little checkbox and all the popups disappear.
        • Just as soon as Mozilla allows for me to block Flash ads in the same fashion I'll truely be happy.
          That and have block cookies by default.
          • Privoxy will let you filter Flash ads and build specific policies for your favorite sites. I basically have a white list of sites I allow Flash from with a default denial of Flash otherwise. Ditto for cookies. I also love their "javascript annoyance" features. If you have a set list of sites you use all the time, Privoxy does a bang up job of making them PITA free.

            It has a real nice web based GUI for doing all of this stuff too. I know and love the Mozilla features for doing some of this and they're quicker when surfing. But Privoxy does a far more thorough job and works with any modern browser.

            And then there's Spamassassin....yum!
          • by flacco ( 324089 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @01:02PM (#4012811)
            Just as soon as Mozilla allows for me to block Flash ads in the same fashion I'll truely be happy.

            A thousand times yes. I disabled flash, by moving the plugin file, and just re-enable it if I need it by copying back into the plugins directory. Big hassle, but not as bad as the motion sickness you get from gratuitous, over-down, endlessly looping flash animations.

            • by Indras ( 515472 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @03:09PM (#4013733)
              If you're using Linux, it would be incredibly easy to write a couple bash shells that could do this, then just add two icons on your KDE/Gnome desktop, one saying "Enable Flash" the other "Disable Flash." This would be a very convenient way to do what you're asking. Here's an example of what "Disable Flash" would look like:

              #!/bin/bash (or insert your favorite shell here)
              # Script to remove flash capability of Mozilla
              # !MozPath = path to Mozilla Plugins directory
              mv /!MozPath/filename /usr/src/

              It would also work to just rename the file to something new... like adding a period "." to the front of the filename, to make it a hidden file.

              Batch files would have the equivalent function in Windows:

              move x:\Path\filename x:\NewPath

              Then, just create a shortcut to the batch file on your desktop, and you have the same functionality. The "Enable Flash" batch/shell script would be nearly identical, except with the parameters reversed on the move function.
        • But that is really moot when you are using AOL. Sure, you can use Mozilla instead of AOL browser for normal web surfing, but the problem is that the AOL client is still running in the background when you are using Mozilla, still creating popups Mozilla can't do a thing about.
          • Ugh. Sounds like a great reason to stay off AOL at all costs. :) Still, I suppose AOL will eventually move over to using Netscape, right? Might take awhile, but at least there's a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.
      • Get Proxomitron (Score:4, Informative)

        by Arcturax ( 454188 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @11:18AM (#4012080)
        Get Proxomitron [arcor.de]

        The setup is a it geeky, but it will remove almost all ads and popups and such crap. It also has many other powerful features and you can easilly add things to the blocklist. Since it runs as a proxy, you can point other machines on your network to it and it will filter them as well, great if being used in a buisiness to save on bandwidth costs, or to simplify home setup if you have a network with several machines in the house.

        Best of all, its totally free!
  • Whahh? (Score:2, Funny)

    by steveo777 ( 183629 )
    So... pop-up ads aren't annoying? Why didn't somebody say this before I bought all that usefull stuff?
  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:25AM (#4011728)
    Where are those popups everybody seems so angry about? Haven't advertisers stopped using them around the time Mozilla was released?

    • Funny.

      Go Mozilla, you're great!

      Go Proxomitron, you edit the Internet.
    • by Bonker ( 243350 )
      Where are those popups everybody seems so angry about? Haven't advertisers stopped using them around the time Mozilla was released?

      Recently, I decided to redo my personal site [furinkan.net] with a PHP backend for easier updates. In the process I decided to eliminate all javascript from my site. I had an image gallery that opened images in a popup, and most of the text files were targeted at new browser windows. Turning on Moz's first version (not the newer, slightly more intelligent version) of 'Don't open new windows', it elminated about half the content on my site.

      Javascript is a wonderful thing, but it's just like anything else. If abused, it's ruined for everyone.

      Now, I'm happier. My users are happier. Those of us using Moz are infinitely happier than those using IE.
  • ... they would have found that 73% prefer to have pop-up ads without AoL.
  • by httpamphibio.us ( 579491 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:27AM (#4011740)
    But what I do get annoyed with are pop-up ads that pop-up new ads when you close them, pages that automatically ask you if you want to install "useful" spyware, and pop-up generators. Another sort of ad that I've just started seeing proliferate are the ones that pop up in their own window that doesn't seem to be a browser window, no status bar, no scroll bar, no file/edit/etc, no max/min/close. The only way I've found to close these is by ctrl-alt-del'ing (sorry I use W2K :) ). It's a good thing companies are getting wise to how annoying these are though. Good stuff...
    • I have one word for you: Mozilla [mozilla.org]. One option under Mozilla allows you to disable popups; that alone is sufficient justification for switching from IE. Yes, it doesn't have some of the system integration that IE has, but it's a better browser overall.

    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @11:00AM (#4011969)
      Popup ads do not bother me at all.

      Why? Because I use mozilla exclusively, and have turned off javascript's ability to
      • open unrequested windows
      • move or resize existing windows
      • raise or lower windows
      • hide the status bar
      Any site I hit that says something asinine like "best viewed with Internet Explorer gets an email from me explaining why I will never bother to use their site, and (in the vast majority of cases, where I find a competitor that does adhere to standards), why I have gone to their competitor instead despite having found their page first.

      I keep a template of the email handy, so that only a few seconds are required to make the complaint to both the webmaster AND two others who are as high up in the firm as I can discover in a quick web search.

      These sites are few and far between ... mozilla works for the vast, vast majority of sites I visit, use, and make purchases from, but for those few who don't the one or two minutes required to fire off a polite, accurate, and pointed complaint is well worth it ... no one likes losing business, least of all smaller firms trying to get started and unwittingly losing 10-30% of their market (depending on whom you ask) because of Microsoft's deliberate incompatability games. Indeed, the number of heartfelt thank you's (and subsequently fixed sites, many of which have switched to some version of apache) I've received has been a very pleasant surprise.

      In any event, there is absolutely no reason for one's web browsing experience to be the kind of popup hell described here ... a small modicum of knowledge and willingness to stand out from the herd is all that is required.
      • Does anyone know if Netscape 6+ has retained the popup suppression? Someone else mentioned that IE will never have it, basically because of the Good Old Boy system in business. That may well apply to the Netscape-branded Mozilla, as well. More likely they'll leave the feature in place, but remove the settings from the UI.

        There's a very real chance that popup suppression could change Internet advertising methods, if it becomes widespread.

        On a similar topic, /. warned about popup ads on TV coming, and I saw one the other night. Forget the channel, but it might have been on The Learning Channel. It was about the same height as the watermark, twice as wide, used the same space, and animated. A small dinosaur jumped on some prey and ate it, to advertise some dinosaur show. It's size similarity to the watermark meant that I wouldn't have thought twice about it, except for having read the /. story.
      • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @11:32AM (#4012167) Homepage
        Any site I hit that says something asinine like "best viewed with Internet Explorer gets an email from me explaining why I will never bother to use their site, and (in the vast majority of cases, where I find a competitor that does adhere to standards), why I have gone to their competitor instead despite having found their page first.

        Funny you should mention that.

        I currently have a bank account with NatWest [natwest.com]. After they 'upgraded' their site, and .asp's started appearing instead of .jsp's, it became impossible to use their online banking unless you used Internet Explorer.

        Annoyed, I decided to hunt out alternatives and found Intelligent Finance [if.com], which works fine with Mozilla.

        Of course, as well as working fine with Mozilla it also happens to have a drastically better mortgage than the Natwest one I currently have, and I am right now in the process of moving my mortgage over. I am saving, literally, thousands of pounds.

        So...Natwest annoying me with locked-in pages lead to me going investigating competitors, which in turns lead me to switch away from Natwest completely.

        Consumer preferences in action.


    • The only way I've found to close these is by ctrl-alt-del'ing (sorry I use W2K :) ). It's a good thing companies are getting wise to how annoying these are though. Good stuff...
      You probably forgot CAD's friend, ALT+F4, which does the job nicely. Rapid fire them and you can close 'em all!
  • iVillage said they would no longer us pop-up ads, instead they would use pop-under ads. AOL is likely to do the same. AOL already disables the function to supress pop up windows in Netscape. They need those ads for revenue. So I really don't see them being serious about eliminating pop-up ads or some form of "invasive ads". I'll continue to use Opera and Mozilla, where I the user am given a choice on what is forced down my throat and what isn't.
  • by Drakino ( 10965 ) <d_slashdot@m i n i i n fo.net> on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:28AM (#4011744) Journal
    Wow, I almost had forgotten about popups. Every system I deal with has Mozilla loaded, and unrequested popups are not allowed. Nor are "open in new window" links, those drive me nuts. If I want it open in a new tab, I'll middle click it.

    Glad they are getting the message though. Back when I did use a browser that wouldn't kill them on it's own, I always just closed them without looking anyhow. I could care less what was being advertised. Just as I instantly crumple all papers left on my windshield instead of giving them one minute second of my attention (Unless it says TICKET of course :-)
  • how many people actually look for tools/apps to kill popups on their own? Pop-ups have faced serious opposition on the CLIENT side since the first popup started automagically appearing.

    I think it's far more truthful to say the advertisers/content suppliers are finally starting to get it. Those that can, block them out. In my case, the reason I prefer Mozilla is the checkbox to kill popups/refarming, and why I run my stuff thru a filtering proxy before it even hits my browser.
  • ... and this is why i'm *very* happy with my EarthLink connectivity. And if they ever dick me around well i'll find someone else for DSL.

  • only scaled back? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:30AM (#4011759)
    I would be VERY annoyed if I was PAYING for a service like AOL and I was forced to click out of ads w/a little button in the corner that says "No Thanks".

    Customer satisfaction from me would be 0 if I was one of their customers... Not only do I have to pay to see ads I also have to be nice when I close them. I want to see that button say something like "Fuck you" or "Eat me" or better yet "AOL is raking me over the coals and now I must click this to remove the offending window".

    I guess I am just too used to paying nothing for really fast internet and not having to look at popups from TW RR.
  • by Dan Nordquist ( 214523 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:30AM (#4011761) Homepage
    The absolute worst has to be Ticketmaster, who interrupts you while you're trying to hand over exorbitant sums for their ticket racket. I'm already ticked off about having to be at ticketmaster.com in the first place, and you send me popups about magazines and credit cards? Do you want me distracted as I get ready to pay you? Insanity.

    So yes, readers would prefer not to have distractions coming at them, but how much sense does it make to send your paying customers away?
  • Pop-Up Ads Begin To Face Serious Opposition


    It (was) found that focus group satisfaction went up "notably" when the number of popups was cut in half

    Duh. It took a frigging focus group to figure this out?

    Maybe the hundreds of phone calls saying "I hate popups" weren't quite to the point enough for them? Martha, get me my clue by four!

  • "... readers don't like to be forcibly diverted from what they are doing."

    I've noticed that people have a difficult time being clear about abusiveness, and therefore about protesting it and stopping it.
  • My personal opinion is that pop-up adverts are like being poked in the eye while you are trying to work. I would never buy anything from one because they irritate me. Google [google.com] on the other hand has a good personal click through rate because they are relevant adverts presented in a simple, clean and informative manner. I seem to remember (and am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong) that Google have one of the best click through rates on the net.
  • No shit... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 )
    It found that focus group satisfaction went up "notably" when the number of popups was cut in half.

    A task force realized that it is a thin line between too many and an "accepted" amount of popups? Wow, this must be a huge step forward in information technology! Here's another FREE (insert flashing lights here) tip for you: Ads playings sounds are annoying.

    If I worked for AOL, I guess that statement alone would advance me to genius status.
    • (insert flashing lights here)
      It's a shame Slashcode won't let you put in <blink> tags. :)

      Or, put another way, it's a damn GOOD thing that Slashcode won't let it through, but I digress.

  • by SkyLeach ( 188871 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:34AM (#4011790) Homepage
    Their customer satisfaction would quadruple if they would stop:

    1.) Reading people's emails/chat logs
    2.) Stop censoring people (kids is debateable, but they censor adults too).
    3.) Stop pissing off every gamer in the world by destorying any online gaming experience.
    4.) Find a way to reverse the damage done to one's ego when someone says "Dude, you've got A-oh-hell!?"

    [X-Box vs. Girlfriend [slashdot.org]]
  • They actually needed to commission a 'task force' to figure this out? I mean, for christ sakes, I can tell you the things that piss people off the most online *right now* for free, no research required: 1. Spam 2. Popup Ads Yes, off the top of my head I came up with those 2 stunning conclusions. Seriously, I often wonder if the employees these companies have their own brains or if they get 'CorpOS: Dumb Terminal' installed as soon as they arrive. Coming in loud and clear Captain Obvious, sir!
  • Hmmm.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by bwt ( 68845 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:38AM (#4011815) Homepage
    So I wonder if AOL will do a focus group to figure out if cooking their books creates investor dissatisfaction.

    I recently read an article that described AOL's concern for the customer experience as "Soviet". I think that bashing the Reds this way is kind of unfair.
  • Until you get more subscription/donation sites going, you'll see advertising. It may not take the form of pop ups or banners, but you will see more interstials and text ads. Others will doubtless come along.
  • Fighting back (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AtariKee ( 455870 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:39AM (#4011827)
    Some sites [arcadeathome.com] have begun fighting back [celebfoto.com] against anti-popup software. There is now anti-anti-ad software [antiadblocker.com]. A good example of this script is here [arcadeathome.com].
  • This is not good. Once the advertising companies realise that people find the ads an annoyance, they'll stop paying for them. And if they're not paying, I'll have to.

    I'd much prefer a free web and popup-killer apps to paying for anything.
    • Re:Bad News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @12:47PM (#4012712) Homepage
      "This is not good. Once the advertising companies realise that people find the ads an annoyance, they'll stop paying for them. And if they're not paying, I'll have to.
      I'd much prefer a free web and popup-killer apps to paying for anything."

      I'd prefer a web that is free of these commercial "we're gonna get rich online" sites, that is made up of sites created FOR THE LOVE of it.

      I run one such site myself, www.wvradio.net.

      It's not just online that advertising is in trouble. It's ALL advertising... The whole market in general is depressed, and isn't recovering as fast as expected. Radio billing is down, and broadcast TV face a similar problem.

      The reason, IMO, is that the public at large have been oversaturated with advertising. Their exposure to ever more obnoxious ads online is leading them to an overall CONTEMPT for ALL FORMS of advertising. I know it sure has for me.

      It also doesn't help that radio stations, for example, are running longer and longer commercial stopsets (Clear Channel's standard one now is 6-8 minutes, with 10 minute+ stopsets not at all uncommon in certain dayparts on my local CC Top 40 station).

      What this all does is FURTHER annoy consumers. They get to the point where they resent IT ALL, even the traditional type, especially as TV and radio programming gets shorter to make stopsets longer.

      I think in many ways, the Internet ad market collapse has led to all of this. Advertisers are increasingly stingy in paying what the marketers want, because they are doubting rate of return "click through" on traditional TV and radio ads, now that they know how low they are online.

      So, the marketers offer ever more intrusive, annoying ad methods to their clients. Which pisses off the targeted consumer even more. Which in turn hurts ad response rate, which in turn depresses the value and revenue of advertising.

      It's a viscious circle, all fueled by the fact that the marketer types have no ethics to speak of, and no sense of RESTRAINT at all. Ergo, Darwin is now teaching them a lesson.
  • The Onion [theonion.com] used to run these Absolut ads are 100% attention getting. They were little squares with interactive content in them... not blaring sound files or boxes listing features of booze, but just simple stuff. And everybody's punched the monkey at least once.

    There's a big difference between focusing attention to send a message and getting somebody to look somewhere and close a window. I don't think most advertisers online are smart enough to be able to know the difference.

    I think NON-INTRUSIVE interactive content in ads is going to be the savior of online advertising in the future, and I think pop-ups have decimated what could have been (in my opinion anyway).

  • by Aliks ( 530618 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:46AM (#4011861)
    Way back when I saw the only definition of marketing that I can respect.

    "Find out what users want and give it to them"

    I like this better than

    "Find out what makes us most money and look for ways to con users into accepting it"

    Sounds like AOL are waking up to this too.
  • I let my nephew use my sole remaining Windows machine a few weeks ago while he was over for the weekend. I went downstairs to use it and low and behold every web page I went to previously now was barraged by pop-up and pop-under ads.

    Sure, I was at first amazed that I could lower my mortgage rates, increase my sexual hunger, and check out hot teen action, but then I realized that I wasn't even browsing pRon sites, and I was still getting that sort of sheer amount of ads.

    Digging a little further into it and after checking out the history on the userid I had created for him I found that the nephew likes pRon, and lots of it. He also apparently deemed it necesary to install a bunch of shady software off the net while using my computer, particularly Kazaa.

    I proceeded to remove any and all software that wasn't there before he used the computer. After rebooting, low and behold the pop-up ads were still popping up like zits on a teenager's face, marring my desktop with their ugly little existence. Now was the time for definite action, no time to hessitate.

    After searching about a bit I recalled Ad-Aware [lavasoftusa.com] and promptly downloaded and installed it. After running a full scan with this software and rebooting, there was no more pop-up ads. Sure, I may not be able to lower my mortgage rate anymore, but at least I'm not annoyed by 5 pop-up ads every time I open slashdot's homepage.

    As for my nephew, he'll no longer be using any of my computers anymore. His taste in pRon was just plain horrid anyways. Not even one good free site did he find.

  • I'm amazed at the resistance I get... I think it's time to start the 'campaign to disable javascript everywhere'. Javascript is EVIL. It's like a C++ compiler on your local machine, accessible to anyone who's sites you visit. The only thing they've done is remove those functions that outright allow damage to be done. But every day, another insecure javascript feature is found, just recently Internet Explorer and Opera were found vulnerable to the same javscript bug. What does it take to convince people? If you disable javascript, you will not longer have popup ads, no more cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, no more security exploits (we've been lucky that nobody really attempts tp exploit them, we talk about windows boxes having exploits, but all machines are vulnerable to javascript), and more. So please, disable javascript. You can still use almost all sites without it. It will make you more secure, and have a much happier browsing experience.
    • by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <`nate' `at' `baxleys.org'> on Monday August 05, 2002 @11:16AM (#4012067) Homepage Journal
      I think that you're shutting yourself off from a large, and growing, number of sites that will use javascript to create a real application out of the browser that won't require repeated trips to the server for trivial information. I have found countless places where I can greatly enhance the user experience by using DynamicHTML, which requires JavaScript or some other scripting language. I'm not talking pop-up windows, put help boxes that can show up in screen next to the item the user is on, dynamic tree menus that don't require Java, forms that hide fields you don't need to fill out, tabbed forms that don't require a trip to the server to change tabs. These types of user interface enhancments are neccesary to keep bringing the web to a larger novice crowd. It must be easy and it must be fast. Needless trips to the server break that. Javascript can be abused, but if used right, it can make the web more useable. I hope that you'll reconsider you're campaign to destroy JavaScript.
      • by Fastball ( 91927 )
        I'm not talking pop-up windows, put help boxes that can show up in screen next to the item the user is on, dynamic tree menus that don't require Java, forms that hide fields you don't need to fill out, tabbed forms that don't require a trip to the server to change tabs.

        Able programmers/designers can produce useful web apps without the need for DHTML via JavaScript. By eliminating JavaScript from your development, you will 1) take a giant step forward for browser compatibility with _all_ of your users, 2) significantly reduce your development time by eliminating browser-specific code, and 3) eliminate one more security vulnerability that can sabatoge your users' work on your site.

        Don't underestimate or shy from server-side solutions. A mod_perl enabled Apache server, or a JSP/Servlet solution can deliver quite nicely. I hope you'll reconsider your position on JavaScript.

        • Repeated trips to the server are fine when you've got a broadband connection, but the majority of users do not have that yet. The best way to provide the user with the fastest pages possible is to include the logic in the pages themselves to react to the user immediatly. Believe me, I've coded server side for a long time, and continue to do so. But no language (Perl, JSP, ASP, PHP, ColdFusion) and I've used them all, can provide the kind of response times that you get from code running on the client. You've got 3 good points, here's how I handle them.

          1&2) The new versions of browsers are coming closer and closer to a standard implementation of JavaScript (ECMAScript if you must) and more importantly, the DOM. By building a framework [alistapart.com] that can be used repeatedly, you can build code that runs on all browsers with little headache each time you develope a new page. This not only allows you to get around older browser's problems, but lets you create new functions that are available to you each time you code by storing them in the library.

          3) JavaScript vulnerabilites are exploited by malicious pages, not by hijacking the javascript that I've coded. The places where javascript causes problems is where it's been written to do that. Coding good, clean javascript will _not_ introduce vulnerabilites into your page. Bad coding and bad people is where vulnerabilities come from.

          I think you need to take another look at the types of things that you can and can't do with serverside languages and start to open your mind a bit about what JavaScript's role is in webpages. It has definetly changed from 5 years ago when it was very immature and very unpredicatable.
      • I hope that you'll reconsider you're campaign to destroy JavaScript.

        The OP is not destroying Javascript -- Nefarious web site developers are. Disabling Javascript is a defensive, not offensive move.
      • by LoRider ( 16327 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @12:18PM (#4012487) Homepage Journal
        Duuuuuude. What are you talking about? Don't worry about the hits on the server, hardware/bandwidth is cheap. If you are worried about user's being inconvenieced by slow loading web pages, then your shit is too heavy and your application isn't architected very well.

        I am sorry but in my opinion Javascripts has 2 useful functions.

        Form data validation. But you should still do the validation on the server, so your stuff still works with people that don't have Javascript enabled.

        Javascript allows you to do really outlandish stuff when you are writting Intranet applications and you can force people to have Javascript enabled.

        Seriously, anyone out there that can't build a web application without sending anything other than HTML to the browser, isn't a very good web developer. People rely on technologies to do things that I personally don't think they were really meant to do. Javascript was a bad idea. Doing some client side stuff is great, but really I don't think Javascript is the right way to do. I would rather run Applets than try and hack out some sort of 'application' with Javascript, please.

        I am always amazed at the number of bad developers out there. Just look through the PHP mailing lists, for every informed post there are 300 disconnected ones. I was a loser when I started out in web development too, so I understand. Just don't act like you know anything if you relying on Javascript to make or break your app. Being a good web developer, or any programmer, requires discipline. Just because you can use a goto doesn't mean you should. The right tool for the job. And do NOT underestimate the power of a well architected web application.

        I'm done now.
        • The right tool for the job.

          This is a very good point. If you want to do heavy number crunching, do it on the server. If you want to make a useable app that responds quickly, do the UI with JS on the client. Bandwidth may be cheap on the server side, but it is definetly not cheap on the client side and often times not available at all. Applets are definetly not the answer for web applications since you have to download this big application each time you visit a page. Again, maybe in a bandwidth rich world this will change, but not soon. _I'm_ amazed at the number of people who learn how to code web pages on the server and refuse to learn anything else. If you want to expand your audience and improve the user experience, you need to add some interactivity to your page. You have two choices as I see it: flash and JS. I think we all know who wins in that battle.
    • Standard Browser Behavior is both braindead and oversimplified, and there's no way out without some level above pure HTML. Tab to switch between fields, and enter to submit? Braindead - some idiot making a graphical interface act like an ascii terminal they once used. Reorder a list online? Not without Javascript. Javascript may be evil, but pure HTML is useless. HTML form default behavior is somewhere between pitiful and stupid.

      There's more to this web than the static content sources and slashdot. Some people try to do work out here - database front ends, project management tools, work tracking, and more. It's a lot easier to write real web tools when you can reprogram the occasional broken browser default behavior with some javascript.

      Is Javascript the wrong tool for the job? Well, it's the only tool for the job if you want to stay with a out-of-the-box web browser.

  • Those God damn AOL CDs that junk up my mailbox. You would think that 1 a day would be enough. But no! Everyday its seems that I have 5 of those tin can CD cases stuffed into my small apartment mailbox which causes the mailman to terrible things to the Time/Warner magazines, that I subscribe too, in order to get them in there. The bills I don't mind.

    I would rather a pop-up ad any day of the week. I can always close them with a click of the mouse. But those damn CD cases ruined my latest issue of Time Magazine, so I completely missed out on the hype being generated by Bruce Springsteen cashing in on the deaths of 2,832 people with his latest CD and how wonderful of a human being he is, according to the editors of Time. Because of Steve Case and his God damn CDs, I missed on loving 'The Boss' even more.


  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi@nosPAM.yahoo.com> on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:51AM (#4011894) Journal
    AOL has crafted a special pop-up ad to let you know of their new commitment to customer satisfaction!
  • ...that the referenced article is from one of the very few places whose popups aren't blocked by Mozilla's popup killer.
  • AOL decreasing their own use of popup ads on their existing clients is not going to lead to your typical online advertiser curbing their own use of them. AOL is attempting to retain their clients. In order to do this, they're looking for ways to stop pissing them off. Good idea. Genius.

    It's not like that for your typical online advertisers. They're generally trying to acquire new business. They want to get noticed, and if they're the kind to use popups or popunders, they're generally not the kind who are too much concerned about pissing off Joe Slashdot-User, who isn't going to click though anyway. They're aiming for the typical, unsavvy web user, who's not going to be too hesitant to give out his credit card details to the flashing lights and pretty colours. Popup ads are effective in generating this kind of business.

    It's in AOL's interest to curb their use of popups. It'll help them keep their clients. It's not in the interest of your typical online advertiser to stop using them. Sorry kids, popups are here to stay.
  • by Talisman ( 39902 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @10:57AM (#4011947) Homepage
    They just figured out that purposely interrupting a user's reading/viewing is annoying?!?

    I suppose their next revelation will be that users don't like swift kicks to their nuts, either.

    I hate AOL more than I can express in words. I would have to compose a song or paint something to adequately show my loathing for them.

  • Or at least they did for me. It eventually came down to either displaying popunders or begging for Paypal donations for the rest of my site's life.

    Clickthrough is spectacular on popups and popunders. You can say it's due to all the accidental clicks, but the sales figures say you're wrong. It's one of the first effective internet advertising techniques... though it can't match that other, much more effective technique called spam.

    As for the editor's question, when will content providers learn that readers don't like being diverted from the content?

    I don't know, but last night I tried watching the Simpsons and was diverted from the content entirely for up to two minutes at a time while commercials ran.

    Hell, if that happened on the internet there would be a rebellion.

    Bandwidth costs money. Servers cost money. Someone has to pay; either the readers or the advertisers. Advertisers won't pay unless we allow them to annoy our readers. So in the end you, the reader, will pay in money or in annoyance. Which do you prefer?
    • >will pay in money or in annoyance.

      make that money AND annoyance.. the reader's bandwidth isn't free either. so why do you let us pay TWICE? //rdj
      • The fee you pay monthly for internet access goes to a company called an Internet Service Provider, or ISP. This allows you physical access to the network of computers and routers called the internet.

        The World Wide Web sits on the internet, and is made up of content pages called websites. But understand that the ISP does not write or administer the websites on the World Wide Web. So paying your ISP does not equal paying your friendly content providers, like the fine folks at Slashdot or Mr. Lowtax at Something Awful. They are not affiliated with the ISP's and do not receive any money from them.

        Therefore the individual website operators must be funded separately, not so much for their time (though that would be nice) but for the expenses it takes to run a website. In order to run a website that can be viewed, there must be a server and another internet connection, only a much higher speed one than what you probably have. These connections are expensive. The servers are expensive. The staff hired to maintain the servers are expensive. The money must come from somewhere.

        Make sense?
  • by ajs ( 35943 )
    What really frustrates me is that I submitted this story a week ago. It showed up in a CBSMakrketWatch article about AOL. This is not the old AOL president. He's just started recently, and that's why he's willing to try out some radical changes like this.
  • by stevel ( 64802 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @11:06AM (#4012006) Homepage

    I've tried various add-on pop-up stoppers, but none seemed to be both effective and unintrusive. I choose to use MSIE, and was delighted to find that CrazyBrowser [crazybrowser.com], a free MSIE add-on whose primary purpose is to add a tabbed interface, is supremely effective at blocking pop-up ads without also suppressing useful popups. It has a number of other cool features as well. Did I mention it's free? It's not "spyware", either. I like it a lot.

    On a related and truly ironic note, I was helping my mother set up her web site on 50megs.com, and was amused that the first time I brought up her new page (using stock MSIE, no popup stoppers), a popup appeared advertising a popup blocker! At least that didn't show up again!

  • How about reliable service. You always get online, you don't have to wait for it, and you never get disconnected. And then to the next really incredible idea, a fast service. Low ping times and a decent transfer rate for everyone.

    After that, no irritating extras, such as pop up ads or whatever. I would rather sit without internet access than use AOL for sure.

    Next thing their wonderous task force should do is to hire one technically competent admin, and one competent financial advisor. Then lock them up in a room an produce a five year plan (to be revised ever third month, it's not the Soviet Union you know). Make sure then "income" will be larger than "what we need to pay to get this stuff running". Sell off dead meat such as ICQ, Netscape, etc that won't give you any revenue anyways and get a grip on what people want to pay for. Let other worry about software you can't make money on.

    It really is a sorry state when slashdot posts makes more sense than corporate financial advisors that run multibillion dollar companies. Maybe geeks truly are better at running companies. Not that the riches guy in the world is a geek or anything...
  • ...it inspires me to come up with a way to send electric shocks through the keyboard to "...draw consumer attention..." to the stuff I want to sell.

    I think it's a wonderful and revolutionary idea. In addition to that, the same shock treatment could be used against users who click on things that are:

    a) not good for them
    b) not good for the competition
    c) not good for the government
    d) not good for 'the church'
    e) ...will upset the 'ecosystem' of the technology world.
  • "AOL tried to make up the lost revenue by increasing the frequency of its popup ads. But the level of consumer satisfaction just seemed to plummet, so AOL's president formed a task force to study the problem. It found that focus group satisfaction went up "notably" when the number of popups was cut in half. As a result, AOL has scaled back (but not eliminated) the popups and it says this has been a catalyst for revolution within the company."

    I read this and did a double take thinking I was over at Dilbert.com. It wasn't all that long ago that I couldn't understand why people were so anti-corporation. But you know what? It makes sense now. For some reason, information (such as customer satisfaction) cannot be verified until 'task forces' are used to say "yes, the obvious is true.".

    To make matters worse, AOL uses the phrase 'catalyst for revolution' to appease the stockholders into pretending they know what they're doing. I wouldn't normally mind, but I think they believe this garbage. Why can't AOL just say "We flamingo'd up! It's a bit like a cock-up, but a little more exotic." ...or... "We tried to squeeze more money out of people, it didn't work, so we're turning our process around so that we can keep our remaining audience."

    If they had said that, I'd be like "well, it's about time, but it's nice that they see the light". Instead what I read is "We discovered something amazing! Research shows that people don't like pop-ups!"

    Hmm I guess I'm not being terribly interesting. I just can't believe that all these years of people griping about pop-ups, even spending money to buy programs to combat them, but AOL doesn't realize how obnoxious they are until a 'task force' goes and finds it out themselves. Sadly, I think most corps work this way. I don't have a lot of faith in the future of this country if the bigwigs can't listen to what their customers are saying.

  • Use Pop-Up Stopper [panicware.com]. To open a new window, hold down left Ctl/Shift. All other's will be closed automatically. It's pretty configurable too, you can have it be hardcore (close all of them) or slightly more leniant (only same site windows, I think). It's worked great for me at work with WinNT and at home, 98/2000.

  • Contrary to popular opinion pop-ups are useful if they VERY narrowly target your audience. IF your looking for memory chips, you want pop-ups on RAM, not Tampax pads. You want something that is very closely related to what you are looking for.

    Something else that AOL is forgetting is that 90% of their base is on dial-up connections. Dial-up connection that have a ton of AOL's proprietary crap wrapped around their TCP protocols. It takes time to download those ads. Those ads and proprietary protocols take up valuable bandwidth.

    This equation is like this AOL:
    Very limited bandwidth â" (Proprietary protocols + Unwanted ads) = Almost no bandwidth for my MP3, Buddy List, and porn.

    What are you thinking AOL?
  • It is really sad that this is noteworthy, especially from a service provider. The article makes a big fuss about what should go without saying: that unsatisfied customers go elsewhere, and that any business, after all is said and done, needs customers more than shareholders if they want to survive longer than half a year or so.

    And these are revolutionary "new" ideas? The whole article only serves as another example how self-centered big business has really become, if they only start thinking about customer satisfaction when customers leave their service in big numbers, and if they need "numbers" to prove that you can't do business without customers.

    I wonder when the RIAA and MPAA members will come to such insights, but probably not in this century.
  • I find it amazing that you have to pay for cable and spend half of the time looking at adds...

    The trend that people start to use pop-up blocking browsers while surfing, and record shows so that they can fast forward the adds tells long about how fed up customers are of seeing adds all the time. Now if only this would force the company to review the way they are doing their advertisement.

    • Sure, you could do away with cable ads. You'd just have to pay much, much more for cable, that's all.

      You'll end up paying one way or another. Shows are expensive to make. The networks can get away with free programming because their audiences are huge and so are their ad fees; they don't need additional fees in order to still pay the Friends a million bucks an episode.

      Smaller cable shows with smaller audiences (like South Park, for example) have to charge less for their ad time, and thus need both advertising revenue and the fees they get from charging cable companies for the right to carry their show.

      I constantly hear people longing for a television with no advertising... okay, let's do the math, if we all were paying directly:

      It now costs about $10 million an episode for friends... it's usually watched by about 21 million people a week... so each of us would have to pay about $ 1.00 to watch it to make it worthwhile to the studio. Say you watch about three hours of television a day... that would be six bucks a day... $180.00 a month.

      Would you pay that if you could magically make all advertising go away? Of course, if you have a kid he's watching TV four hours a day, and isn't watching the same shows you watch. Better make that around $300.00 a month.

      The money has to come from somewhere. Advertising is what makes it affordable.

      • Re:Amazing? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by GuNgA-DiN ( 17556 )
        I prefer the British model with the BBC. You pay a "license" fee for your television and then you don't have to deal with advertising. Sure, the American model is cheaper... but, at what cost? So you can be bombarded by ads 24/7 ? I have some friends from Eastern Europe who have told me that when a movie is played on TV there... you get to watch the WHOLE movie without commercial interruptions. Here in America when a movie plays on "free" TV they hook you and then beat you over the head with ads! The first 40 minutes of the movie are show without any interruptions. Then, as you get closer and closer to the end of the movie they are interrupting every 10 minutes for 5 minutes worth of commercials. It is absolutely maddening!
      • Actually yes, I'd rather pay more than watch adds all the time... Although I would not pay $180 a month (especially not for friends.)
        I think it would be a good thing to be given the choice and being able to pay for the shows you want to see... I guess that's a bit what you can do with video/DVD rental or pay per view TV.

        Actually, pay per view would be good if we could have a greater choice available from home. Unfortunately all you can see is overpriced sports events and the same crappy blockbuster movies you can see at the cinema.
        I would probably loose less time in front of the TV looking at crappy shows and crappy adds.

        Life is too precious to be wasted in front of a TV.

  • Gee.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Helter ( 593482 )
    As usual, they paid a hell of a lot of money to learn something that any random person would have told them for free. Someone once said that a million monkeys sitting at a million typewriters would eventually compose the collected works of Shakespear. We have now learned that this is not correct, a million monkees at a million keyboards will eventually form the most popular ISP in the US.
  • A four year study has concluded that annoying your customers is not good for business.

    The study also concluded that when customer satisfaction is down, one way to improve said satisfaction is not to increase the degree of annoying factors.

    AOL's on the ball here people! Better pay attention!!

  • There is a bit of a statistic that I would like to see. I would like to see how much Return on Investment that these companies get by using popup ads, banner ads and the like. I would like to see a ratio showing the relation between the number of ads shown and the number of ads where users actually clicked through. then I would like to see how many users who clicked through actually bought something. This last part, albeit, might be difficult to use as evidence. After all, if I were to ever click through on an ad, I would make a bookmark, and then inevitably come back later. So, it would be very hard for such statistics to be tracked. But clickthrough statistics would be easy to track.

    I can't imagine the ratio of displays vs. clickthroughs to be very high. I also can't imagine that these companies would be doing such a thing without keeping some sort of statistics. From a marketing point of view...how low does such a ratio have to be before a company ultimately axes an advertising campaign? It's just a baffling concept to me.

  • found that focus group satisfaction went up "notably" when the number of times people were hit in the head with a hammer was cut in half.

  • by cebe ( 34322 ) on Monday August 05, 2002 @03:31PM (#4013889) Journal
    The paradox that content providers are finding themselves in is interesting. No advertisements, equals no revenue. No revenue means you can't pay the bills, and the site goes offline.
    Advertisements piss people off, and they get annoyed and stop hitting the site.
    ok we all know all of that.

    What happened to me recently was very interesting.
    I got sick and tired of the ads on alberta.com [alberta.com]. Specifically, the news [alberta.com]. I really enjoyed reading the news on alberta.com because of how they set it up... I can get national, provincial, or international news, or all of it together. A few months ago.. I noticed that every single fsking time I clicked on a news story, a popup ad came up. SO, if i read say... 12 news stories in one visit, I had 12 browser windows open with the SAME ad. (or I had clicked them closed 12 times)

    I got so mad that I emailed them. I thought they wouldn't care, let alone reply to me. I was wrong.
    They care about you!

    this is the reply I got within 48 hours of firing off my flame mail:

    "Thanks for the feedback.
    Sorry to hear you're so upset about the advertising on Alberta.com, but we have
    faced a difficult challenge: Drastically cut the
    amount of news we purchase for our users, or subsidize that content by responding to
    advertisers' demands for increasingly more
    intrusive advertising.
    We are working on trying to ensure that most pop-up advertising occurs once per
    session. I'll pass this along to our advertising
    department to see if something can be done. In the meantime, we can only hope you
    give us another chance.
    Rob Klovance
    Managing Editor
    TELUS Multimedia Solutions"

    Interestingly, within a couple weeks, the popup ads were gone. It seems that there are more (and bigger) ads on the site (wihch I much more prefer over popups), and I don't know if this was a result of my measly flame mail, or if I was merely one of hundreds that voiced my opinion, but one thing is clear:

    If you like a website, but you're ready to stop hitting it because you are so annoyed, tell them! They want to hear from you. You are more important to their site than the advertisers. Oh, and thanks Rob. :)

Don't be irreplaceable, if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.