The Rise and Fall of the Pop-Up Ad

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In 1995 a programmer by the name of Brendan Eich wanted to design an advertisement platform for the Internet that wasn’t a rectangular banner ad, which was the only type that existed at the time. Eich eventually authored a new programming language called JavaScript where elements could move in response to user input and new windows could open on their own.

Online marketers at the time saw the pop-ups as a way to drive sales. Unlike a banner ad, a pop-up demanded the user’s attention. By 1997 the pop-up ad was featured on several of the biggest websites on the Internet at the time. (AOL!) Banner ads were doing well, but the click-through rates (CTR) dropped toward the end of the 90’s to about 1-2%. Pop-up ads were clicked on by about 3-5% of users although some had concerns that users were just confused by this new window that was opening on their screens and of course some probably clicked by accident.

Of course, on top of being intrusive, pop-up ads were annoying ! Within a year there was software being advertised to block pop-ups and then pop-up blockers became a standard feature on browsers. Pop-ups hit their peak in about 2002, but then a survey reported that 75% of Internet users found them to be “very annoying”. With the rise of high-speed Internet and improved video and sound features on computers, pop-ups became basically extinct.

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