At the end of the day, the business model that got us [Tripod.com] funded was advertising. The model that got us acquired was analyzing users’ personal homepages so we could better target ads to them. Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad. 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 anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry.
–Ethan Zuckerman, creator of the pop-up ad, apologises.
The reset of the article goes on to look at how we ended up with such a broken, “free” internet, and how little advertising online is really worth (and how annoying and damaging it is to end users).
Welcome to the true cost of “free”.