Pop-ups — those advertising windows that pop up over or under other windows while we use the Internet — have become more and more ubiquitous as the Web has grown. For Macintosh computers, the Safari browser has pop-up blocking capability already included. But Internet Explorer, the most popular browser, does not yet include pop-up blocking, though Microsoft has recently said it will be included in its next Internet Explorer service pack. Many people believe the problem of pop-ups will disappear if pop-up blocking becomes a default component of Web browsers. Meanwhile, however, those little windows can remain a real annoyance.
Here are some options for dealing with pop-ups.
Commercial Products: Software can be purchased to block pop-ups. Products such as Pop-Up Stopper (www.panicware.com/product_psprofessional.html), Ad-aware Plus (www.lavasoftusa.com), and PopUpCop (www.popupcop.com) offer pop-up blocking, in addition to other abilities. Ad-aware Plus, for example, checks your computer for spyware, and Pop-Up Stopper provides browser cleaning to erase your surfing history, browser history, cache, and cookies.
Toolbars: The free Google and Yahoo! Companion toolbars, which can be added on to Internet Explorer for search functionality, also provide optional pop-up blocking. These are easy to turn on, and if you'd like to track how many pop-ups have been blocked, they include a counter on the toolbar.
ISP-Provided Pop-Up Blocking: Some Internet service providers, such as AOL and Earthlink, have added pop-up blocking to their software. In addition to blocking pop-ups, Earthlink offers additional functionality for your money by giving you the option of viewing thumbnail versions of blocked pop-up windows and blocking Flash and Shockwave content.
Freeware and Shareware: Check your favorite shareware site (such as shareware.com) to download pop-up blocking products such as Pop-Up Stopper Free and Pop-Up Defender.
The Downside of Blocking Pop-Ups: Some Web sites use pop-ups to provide you with additional information. For example, some sites use pop-ups to show a table of contents, and on one school district's site, a pop-up was used to inform the public about an upcoming school board election.
Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and regular columnist for Technology & Learning.
Read other articles from the February Issue