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One of the Internet’s most hated villains apologizes for his crimes

Published Aug 15th, 2014 10:01AM EDT
Who Invented The Pop-Up Ad

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Is there anything that’s more universally despised on the Internet than pop-up ads? Probably not but now The Atlantic has published an essay written by the creator of these hideous little bits of code and he says he’s sorry for what he’s done.

Ethan Zuckerman, who now heads up the Center for Civic Media at MIT, says that he first wrote the code for what would become the pop-up ad in the mid-’90s when he was doing design work at

“The model that got us acquired was analyzing users’ personal homepages so we could better target ads to them,” writes Zuckerman of his experience with Tripod. “Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: The pop-up ad.”

Believe it or not, Zuckerman actually says that the pop-up ad was designed with benevolent intentions as a way to help advertisers separate their brands from whatever wild and seedy content just happened to be on someone’s homepage.

“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,” he explains. “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.”

Zuckerman’s full essay is worth reading and can be found by clicking the source link below.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.