The ad war between pushers and blockers has escalated once again, to no one’s great surprise.
Now that IE finally blocks popup windows, that revenue stream has quickly dried up. The problem is that there are several far more evil ways to put unsolicited content in users’ faces (fake ad-word links, floating ads, etc.). Until recently, these new breeds were pretty rare, almost novelties. But now that every major browser on the market sends popups packing, ad creators are quickly adapting.
Like the super-germs which survive an antibiotic regimen, these new and more powerful ads find a fertile supply of now-defenseless victims to infest. Automatically blocking a popup window is trivial compared to the difficulty of finding and rooting out floating ads, which appear in code as an integrated part of the site that’s being viewed.
It’s analogous to the current television situation in many ways. Ad pushers have realized that the “commercial” is basically on its last legs. Not only can people zone out, change the channel, or walk away, but now they can just fast-forward right past the commercials thanks to DVR technology. Heck, I have a DVR that automatically detects commercial blocks and skips them for me, so I don’t even have to exert the energy of pressing a button. Little surprise that we’re now starting to see “floaters” on top of the actual shows. So far most of the ones I’ve seen are (visually distracting and totally annoying) ads from the networks themselves, promoting some upcoming show or event. In a very short time I am certain that this situation will deteriorate. Whether it’s a constant banner stream along with the show, or ever more annoying floater ads, it’s going to get ugly.
So is the war lost? Well maybe not. In web land at least, the viewers have a fighting chance. The beauty of the web is that (for the most part) the viewers are the ones responsible for interpreting and rendering the content of a site. Users can choose their own browsers, and the browser can display sites in whatever way it sees fit. Engineering a smart enough sieve to catch floater ads is a tough nut to crack, but I am very confident that it will happen soon, likely as a plugin for Firefox, followed many moons later by the lumbering inevitability of an IE update.
Is that going to be the end? Of course not; but I’m not worried about it overmuch. The only people more tenacious then ad mongers are those plucky code monkeys who hate the ads and believe it’s their moral imperative to save us from them. To those brave and tireless souls: I salute you.