The Guy Who Invented Pop-Up Ads Says 'I'm Sorry'

08/15/2014 11:41 am ET | Updated Aug 15, 2014
  • Alexis Kleinman Deputy Managing Editor Of Impact & Innovation, The Huffington Post
Joi, Wikimedia

Remember how horrible pop-up ads were? All those years you spent scrambling to click out of those little bubbles, years you can never get back? Well, the guy who created those ads would like to apologize.

Ethan Zuckerman, a media scholar and director of MIT's Center for Civic Media, penned a long post in The Atlantic decrying the influence of advertising on the Internet and apologizing for his contribution to it.

You see, while working for website-builder Tripod in the 1990s, he created the pop-up ad.

"I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it," Zuckerman wrote. "I’m sorry. Our intentions were good."

Those intentions, he explains, were originally to hide a banner ad that a big car company didn't realize it had bought on a sexually explicit website. It was too late to remove the ad from the site, so Zuckerman created an ad to pop up over it and hide it. Little did he know how pervasive pop-ups would become. After he wrote the code for that ad, Geocities (remember Geocities?) introduced pop-ups using his code a few weeks later, according to Zuckerman. Soon enough, they were everywhere, annoying everyone.

Today, pop-up ads aren't the scourge that they were in the 1990s and early 2000s. By 2004, Microsoft had introduced a feature that blocked pop-up ads on Internet Explorer. Now many sites, including Google, don't allow any pop-up ads.

Hopefully Zuckerman isn't too broken up about it. After all, he did create something that has become a staple of Internet culture. Jimmy Fallon even celebrated them in a segment on "Late Night" called "Late Night Pop-Up Ads."

If you want to completely kill all ads on the Internet (including pop-ups and banner ads) you can download Adblock Plus for your browser. The extension has more than 300 million downloads.

Now we just need the guy who invented Adblock to say "you're welcome."

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