Marketing Matters: “The History of Pop-up Creation”

🧑‍💻 Ethan Zuckerman, a developer at the time for, is usually recognized as the code creator that allowed new browser pop-up windows to be opened, which became widely known as pop-up ads. Though he worked with good intentions, this new form of advertising quickly gained a bad reputation.

Initially, pop-up ads seemed like a way to “save” online advertising and attract the attention of increasing users suffering from “ad blindness. “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. 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 a**l sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.” – Ethan Zuckerman wrote in The Atlantic in his defense. However, these ads did not lead to real ROI, and by the early 2000s, browsers had incorporated a built-in pop-up blocking feature.

When the blocking feature doesn’t work, users try to remove pop-up ads by clicking on the “close” or “cancel” buttons on the pop-up window itself. Learning about this pattern, some pop-up creators developed misleading buttons or screen controls that look like “close” or “cancel” options. However, when a user selects one of these deceptive options, the button triggers an unexpected or unwanted action, such as opening another pop-up window or downloading an unwanted file to the user’s device.

Today, many 😡 can’t stand pop-up ads. Users do everything possible to block them. However, it’s important to remember that pop-up ads were once considered a solution for declining banner click-through rates. Although, in the end, they did not lead to real results, they played a significant role in the evolution of online advertising.

And how do you feel about pop-up and do you use them in your advertising campaigns?