Yahoo! Joins Cadre Speeding Demise of Pop-Ups

Yahoo has added a pop-up blocker to the latest beta version of its Yahoo Companion browser toolbar, following in the footsteps of competitor Google.

The move will only hasten what seems to be the likely eventual demise of the pop-up as an online advertising format. Microsoft has already said it plans to add pop-up blocking to its Internet Explorer browser next year. The feature is already standard on other browsers, and Google’s toolbar is only the most visible of many applications already available to block pop-ups.

Yahoo says it added the pop-up feature, which will be released generally next week, at users’ request. Explaining the reasoning behind the move, the company also cited a September 2003 Forrester Research study that found four out of five consumers felt pop-ups interfered with their online experience.

In Yahoo’s case, the pop-up controls appear directly to the right of the search window on its Companion toolbar. By default, blocking is turned on when the toolbar is downloaded, but it can be disabled. Users can set the tool to allow pop-ups from select sites, but not from others. As with the Google toolbar, users hear a sound when a pop-up is blocked, and the icon on the toolbar itself changes. The toolbar tracks how many pop-ups it has blocked, and notes their sources. Interestingly, the toolbar enables users to go back and look at pop-ups that have been blocked, a feature which would be useful if someone realized that he had missed something important.

Despite the proliferation of pop-up-killer applications, and the user hatred that fuels their development, advertiser use of the format has gone up dramatically in the past year, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. The research firm says pop-ups accounted for 7.4 percent of all online ad impressions in Q3 2003, up from 3 percent for the same period last year.

That increased usage doesn’t mean pop-ups haven’t been controversial. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) just last month launched a task force to deal with issues like frequency capping, size standards, descriptions and definitions. The IAB UK in September issued frequency cap guidelines for intrusive ad formats like pop-ups, recommending three intrusive ads for every 30 minutes a user is on a site.

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