Pop-up Blockers: What They Can Teach Us About Ad Blockers

Remember the days when you couldn’t visit a website without being bombarded by at least one pop-up? At the time it was THE advertising method of choice for driving traffic to websites, selling everything from cars to porn (mostly porn). Many web surfers felt that pop-up ads were annoying at best, intrusive and violating at worst. The public backlash this caused prompted companies to start incorporating pop-up blocking software into their web browsing software. Opera (surprisingly) was the first browser to incorporate tools to block ads, quickly followed by Mozilla. By the early 2000s every major browser allowed users the ability to block unwanted pop-up ads completely. With 20 years of hindsight its easy to agree that the pop-up ad was a good idea that was taken too far. Even the developer of the pop-up ad, Ethan Zuckerman, in an article published by CNN Money agreed that the pop-up ad became “one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit”. Today, the pop-up ad is rarely used in effective marketing strategies.


As pop-up blockers died out they were replaced with banner ads. Publishers can sell space on their websites in exchange for money per impression, click, or action. This is the current economy of popular webpages that attract millions of unique impressions per month, but it seems that advertisers did not remember from their past. Banner ads have become as annoying and intrusive as pop-ups once were. Now Apple has made news with the ability to block display ads on websites with the latest release of iOS 9. History is repeating, and advertisers and publishers are understandably wary of this new technology as it seems very similar to the pop-up blockers that started coming standard in browsers, leading many to wonder if this will be the end of free content on the web.

One of the biggest issues for many major ad networks is that these Adblockers are going to act as a new pay to disPlay, if you will. AdBlockers being developed and released on iOS 9 such as AdBlock Plus are blocking most ads except those they deem to be ‘non-intrusive.’ Those that are considered non-intrusive include ads from major networks like Google and Microsoft, which have paid to have their own feeds white listed.

You can see where this is going. Any ad blocker that gains any sort of traction on the app store will begin demanding big payments from the major networks in order to allow their ads to display again. These costs will then be passed on to the advertisers. This is not only bad for the networks and advertisers but also for the users who will constantly be looking for the AdBlocker that actually blocks the ads.

What do you think? Are AdBlockers here to stay, and is it good thing or bad? Leave your comments below