Sunday, October 17, 2004

Pop-ups - the uninvited guests of the web

Sunday, October 17, 2004

You will soon discover that one of the main drawbacks of browsing the web is the spontaneous appearance of pop-ups. If you've been surfing the net for more than a day or two I'd hazard a guess that you've already been introduced to the exasperating world of pop-ups. I very much doubt you need me to provide you with a definition of a pop-up, but you never know so here goes. A pop-up is a web browser window containing a graphical advertisement which uninvitedly presents itself when you open a web page containing the necessary pop-up generating javascript code. This is a brazen money making scheme; the idea being that by thrusting adverts under your unsuspecting nose, webmasters can earn money by conning you into clicking on links to commercial sites and subsequently encouraging you to buy whatever unmissable deal is on offer at the time. Very rarely are you taken to the site you were expecting to visit. Instead you are deliberately mislead, and more often than not, redirected to a subscription based porn site. The link you clicked on sends a message to the site that is being promoted and the details of the referrer are logged. Then at the end of the month the cretin who tricked you into visiting a site that you had no interest in receives a cheque for his trouble. Sound familiar? Well I think I've mentioned this once or twice before. Don't despair; you will be delighted to know that you don't have to put up with this intrusion. The 99.99% effective way to stop the evil blighters in their tracks is to install a web browser with a built-in pop-up disabling widget.

Before pop-ups became such a ubiquitous aspect of web life it was necessary to install a separate application in order stymy their untimely appearance. These are now superfluous seeing as all the most popular browsers come complete with an array of pop-up murderingly useful features designed to selectively filter the web content you view - to protect yourself, all you have to do is ensure that these are enabled.

If you insist on using Internet Explorer (otherwise known as the malware magnet) you can do this by clicking on the "turn on pop-up blocker" option found within the 'tools' menu. In Mozilla-based browsers e.g. Firefox, the pop-up blocker can be switched on by ticking the "block unrequested pop-ups" check box located under the 'privacy and security' tab of the 'preferences' panel (which in turn can be accessed via the 'edit' drop-down menu). Additionally both browsers support pop-up 'white lists' that allow you to specify which sites are to be trusted to launch pop-ups. This comes in very handy for those odd occasions when you actually want pop-ups to do what they do best, pop up that is. Many benign sites are rendered inoperable if they are restricted by pop-up blockers so this is crucial. Even if a site hasn't been added to your white list, it is usually possible to give it the green light on a one-off basis by holding down a 'hot key' (control in IE) as the site loads. Some pop-up blocking tools can be set to either flash in your task tray or status bar, play a sound or do both each time they zap a pop-up dead in the water. Give it a try - you won't realize how satisfying a flashing icon can be until you visit a pop-up laden web site!

Take a last long look at that pop-up loitering menacingly on your screen. Now you have your pop-up blocker enabled it will be the last one you will ever see!

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