Ethan Zuckerman, the creator of the pop-up advertisement, recently wrote an article for The Atlantic apologizing for the tech, saying that he was the one who wrote the code so that an ad can launch in a separate window. The intentions were good, but he acknowledged that pop-ups have become the most hated advertiser's tool on the Internet.
So why were pop-up ads created? It started when he was working for Tripod.com from 1994 to 1999. Tripod created a website to provide services and content to college graduates, but that didn't pan out, so it decided to become a webpage host instead. The company tried a number of ways to generate revenue, but in the end, it had to rely on advertising.
"The model that got us acquired was analyzing users' personal homepages so we could better target ads to them," he said. "Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser's toolkit: the pop-up ad."
He said that the pop-up ad was the result of a car company complaining that it had purchased a banner ad that was shown on a pornography site. By throwing the ad in a pop-up window, the source ad wouldn't be associated with the website's content. Ultimately, what he wanted to create was a tool for Tripod.com that allowed users to express themselves, a service that was supported through ads.
"Charging users for the service would have blocked most of our potential customers — most of the world still doesn't have a credit card today, and fewer did in 1995," he said. "E-payment systems like PayPal didn't come online until 1999. But because Tripod's services were free and ad supported, users around the world found us and began posting webpages they could not host elsewhere."