Pop-up ads have got be in the top-five list of the digital world's most hated things, not including Internet Explorer. Now, the man who invented them back in the mid-1990s, wants to apologise.
Ethan Zuckerman, the head of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT, says that he didn't know what he was bringing into the world when he wrote the code for the first pop-up ad more than two decades ago while working for Tripod.com. Here's what he writes in a fabulous essay on The Atlantic:
At the end of the day, the business model that got us funded was advertising. The model that got us acquired was analysing users' personal homepages so we could better target ads to them. Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser's toolkit: the pop-up ad.
It was a way to associate an ad with a user's page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page's content. Specifically, we came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they'd bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I'm sorry. Our intentions were good.