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Google combats pop-up ads
Do you hate pop-ups or what?

 4:35 am on Jan 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hey, webmasters on this board know that Google practically never announces anything in advance. But I wanted to give everyone here a heads-up about something that we're going to do, because this is an issue that concerns you too and we wanted to ask for help.

You probably have heard of "scumware" programs. They are programs that get installed when you download programs like BearShare and AudioGalaxy. Sometimes these scuzzy programs just spy on users and report where they go. The worst programs actually target users with pop-ups. They appear at random intervals, or target users based on what they type on any website.

Most of you already know this, and I know that lots of you despise these scumware products. Jim over at SEF actually started www.scumware.com to combat this junk. The most persistent question that we get at Google is "When did you guys start showing pop-ups?" It's really discouraging because we *don't* show pop-ups and never intend to. We work hard to make Google a useful, fast site for users, and I hate that other companies are abusing our reputation for their own profit. A lot of these scumware products target your websites all over the net, too.

Sometime in the next few days, I think we're going to put a promo line on our home page. It will say something like "Google does not show pop-up advertising. Here's why" with a link to a background page. It will explain our position against pop-up ads, tell how to uninstall scumware, and mention how to complain to the FTC.

So why am I telling you about this in advance? Basically, we're on the same side against scumware, and it would help if other websites took action too. If you dislike scumware that highlights links on your site without your permission, or triggers pop-ups, please help us out. Put anti-scumware messages on your pages, or write the FTC, or just spread the word about scumware. I'd also be curious if you have other suggestions for stamping out scumware.

thanks in advance for anyone willing to help,



 1:18 pm on Jan 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

How come you only mention pop-up adds and not the other features that reside in "scumware" products?

For example the help page states:

If you feel you were deceived when you installed a program that creates pop-ups, you may want to take action.

Why don't you mention how scumware monitors user's actions? If you are going to tell them they were deceived you might as well explain it ALL to them.

What if the scumware tracks users' keywords entered into Google? Wouldn't Google's users like to become aware of how their surfing patterns are being matched?


 1:31 pm on Jan 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

MSGraph, not every software that record clickstream is scumware.
Google Toolbar in some condition record clickstream and is not scumware. If it's disclosed to the user there is no problem with
recording data if it's done with user's informed consent.



 1:36 pm on Jan 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

Yes I know that Roland and I wasn't saying that every software the takes this data is scumware.

I'm just wondering why Google does not clearly point out that some programs do this behind the scenes without letting the user know. What if the program does not serve pop-ups and just sends the data along? Wouldn't users want to know about this as well?


 2:16 pm on Jan 29, 2002 (gmt 0)


The message i got from Googleguy's posts is that they are getting flak because popups pop up when people are surfing their site. from scumware. People dont understand that this does not come from Google. And Google's key brand perception is of uncluttered uncommercilly biased results.

GG is quite honest I think that the motivation is quite selfish. They have to keep their strong brand name.

In encouraging others to follow their lead here, .. it's a secondary consideration though laudable...

This also addresses msgraph's question too I feel. The key damage done to Google's brand is in the pop-ups, not information gathering.

Why not try some community service at the same time as saving your brand from damage..? I'm all for it..


 2:38 pm on Jan 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>>Why not try some community service at the same time as saving your brand from damage..?

My point exactly Chiyo.

From GoogleGuy:

Now is a good time to complain to the FTC, put up an anti-scumware page, then call a reporter and complain to them. Let's get this junk off the net!


 3:53 pm on Jan 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

>protecting their brand

No doubt about it, google's just having the same problem any publisher has. And, I might add (cynically), these pop-ups do compete with adwords. Still, google is right to assume that they are being tarred. Backus found an example of that here, dating back to late Nov. (thanks Backus) subtitle: Has Google really gone and stooped to that? [webmasterworld.com]


 1:50 am on Jan 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

I agree with the stance from the stand point that it is good for the web. However, from a long term biz standpoint, I think it's a mistake for Google. It's an association with dirty business that taints Googles squeaky clean image. No matter how justified the stance, mud slinging still gets the slinger dirty.

2002 is shaping up as an interesting search engine year.


 2:22 am on Jan 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

I don't know about that, Brett. I think that a better web helps Google in a lot of ways. More people will use the web, and more people will want to search it.

I don't think Google can stop all scumware programs, but it seems worthwhile to educate users about the ones that are sneaky enough to do pop-ups wherever you go. So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so I hope that we're doing a good job of bringing users up to speed about these issues.


 2:52 pm on Jan 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

Always been a fan of Google (who isn't?) so I'm glad to see a stand being taken against pop-ups. Great stuff.

> The last site has some Javascript to detect scumware--does anyone know how well it works?

I have a fair idea, since I wrote it.

It's... reasonable. You have to be using IE with JavaScript and ActiveX enabled for it to do anything, and there are lots of parasites it can't catch. (Because only software that installs ActiveX objects is detectable from JS.)

But still, it does detect some of the commoner parasites (including my "favourite" VX2), and it doesn't slow down page loading or anything, so it's an overall 'win' in my admittedly biased book. :-)

I'm happy to let anyone link, copy or alter the script. If Google wanted to use a variant of it, you'd probably want to take out the entries for things like Onflow and BDE, though, since although they are stealth-installs with possible harmful effects, they do not generate pop-ups.


Andrew Clover


 3:08 am on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

Google's help/policy page on pop-ups looks good, some stuff is missing there though. Here's my posting to google buddies, they gonna add it to the page, you guys think of any other reasons a pop-up is shown? Post it here. tnx. : - )


On this page: [google.com...]
you have written about the possible reasons a user may
see a pop-up when browsing google. One of the common
reasons which is missed is 'onunload' pop-ups which are
being triggered when you leave a web site. So, if you're
browsing one of those sites and then enter google you'll
see one of those ads.

A good example:

Browse: [anvari.org...] and you wont see
any banners. Now, type [google.com...] in your
browser's address bar and you'll see a pop-up!


Ahmad Anvari


 3:11 am on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

"type [google.com...] in your
browser's address bar and you'll see a pop-up! "

I'd check your computer for visiting software that forgot to announce itself. That is exactly the reason for the statement - Google does not have pop-ups.

brotherhood of LAN

 3:27 am on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

I believe Ahmad is referrring to the likes of www.exitfuel.com

Last time I looked, they load a pop up for visitors leaving your site.

On my site over 60% are Google searches (I know that should be lower) therefore if these people clicked "back" after coming to my site and I used exitfuel, you can understand why people would think Google is showing pop ups


 3:37 am on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

So does Google penalize sites that participate in $ programs like exit fuel? (or other advertizement programs that pay for pop ups or pop unders) ?

brotherhood of LAN

 3:43 am on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

I wouldnt think so andrey

But they are referring to this "scumware" software that is floating around, that installs on your computer and pops up ads when they really shouldnt

Ads are fine!!! in moderation of course :)


 6:06 am on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hey there! Welcome to the forums, bobince! The people here are very friendly. I'm a big fan of your site--thanks for the information that you put up on the web.

ahmad, you're right that we should have at least mentioned JavaScript exits. Thanks for reminding me about that.


 12:42 pm on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

A very thought provoking blog on the same subject (and WebmasterWorld) by Pagecount: [pagecount.blogspot.com...] (scroll down to A Clued Google Waxes Gonzo)

an untaken nick

 4:23 pm on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

Google guy, what sort of response is Google getting re this new page? Do you feel it is plain enough and that the links referred to are easily understood by an "average" surfer?

I sense some confusion and wonder if a simplification of wording might not be needed?

brotherhood of LAN

 9:43 pm on Jan 31, 2002 (gmt 0)

Ive just found another reason why people may mistakingly think that Google uses pop-ups

Does anyone else get a pop-up when they click the search button at the top of IE6?


 5:23 am on Feb 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Good pointer, Brett. My fave line: "WmW is the honey pot around which the bees of the search engine optimization and marketing world buzz."

Now I just have one question: what's this "gonzo" stuff everybody keeps talking about?


 5:44 am on Feb 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

>what's all this "gonzo" stuff

see: Gonzo Marketing by Christopher Locke


 6:02 am on Feb 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

"Gonzo" was a term coined by the original gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson, known for the new journalism back in the 60's and 70's. His style was extremely personal, "in your face", honestly subjective and concentrated on politics, social issues, and drugs.

If that sounds reminiscent of "weblogs", well Im sure that the weblogging genre owes much to Hunter S Thompson. Many weblogs are "on-line gonzo", and some are credible and substantive extensions of the Hunter S thompson style to the on-line world.

On the other hand, for some reason the term got picked up by marketers (Hunter would have a fit about this and reach for the substances kept by his lawyer Raoul in his suitcase, seeing he was the epitome of ant-establishment and left wing causes). The term was badly misused by the marketers, and it has suffered so much that now the term gonzo is just marketing hype.


 6:33 am on Feb 1, 2002 (gmt 0)

Gonzo [muppets.com]

Anyway, I am curious to know what kind of response the message has generated.

Have the pop-up complaints decreased?
Have many people reported scum removal?


 6:14 pm on Feb 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

The link from the front page has gone (for me). Why is this?


 8:47 pm on Feb 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

Gonzo. Hmmmm. I might have read some of Hunter's stuff, but I'm not certain. The years from 1967 through 1974 are a foggy blur....

an untaken nick

 8:32 am on Feb 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

It's been condensed and moved to the FAQ for search.


 3:31 am on Feb 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

Does this mean that sites with popups are not allowed in the ODP project?

The editor in the category has refused my submission on the grounds that popups are tedious (they are in fact). I have tons of original and useful content for teachers (I am now getting about 4000 page views per day) but I can't get listed in the directory because I allow Burstmedia to show popunders sometimes. The popunders happen about 20% of the time and they are not to obnoxious.


 3:35 am on Feb 14, 2002 (gmt 0)


"Repeated" pop-ups are a no-no in the ODP. In some categories you can get away with 4 (I think it is), but "repeated" would suggest more than 1.

brotherhood of LAN

 1:17 pm on Feb 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

Boggles, I too am with Burst!

The thing is all these "geo-targetted ads" are for the US when Im in the UK. I asked someone from the US to see my site and they were attacked by pop ups

Ive just got one pop up able to be run now, thus eliminating the fact, perhaps you might want to do the same!



 1:31 pm on Feb 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

Beachboy, Brotherhood
Thanks for the clarification on ODP and tip off about burst. I am using burst and didn't know they gave different popups to different areas. I think I may get rid of them anyway because I don't really like them (popups that is). Alas, they were the best revenue earners.

But, I think looking at them as revenue earners is a short term view. The less people I make angry with them translates to more repeat traffic. This in turn means more revenue from lower paying banner ads. (I hope).


brotherhood of LAN

 1:41 pm on Feb 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

Bogglesworld - I wouldnt get rid of them. On hard times you can fall back on them, and hopefully cover your costs

If you go to your "ad profile" and manually select, you can choose what ads are shown. Click on "ad exec" and you will get you choice of ads. Something like the top five for me are pop ups, so I just picked the first, highest paid one :)

apart from that, I dont go below .50CPM and choose only relevant CPC campaigns. Any flashing / annoying banners are out the window. This way, ensuring that your ads are 'ok', page views go up and you have a bare minimum income until you find something better :)

hope this helps


 2:22 am on Feb 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

sorry for being busy for the past 3 weeks and replying late..

crash: no, my computer have any software showing pop-ups installed on..

brotherhood: yep, and another example would be url snipped

googleguy: i wonder why that page is still old and not updated..

_Ahmad Anvari

(edited by: engine at 8:39 am (utc) on Feb. 25, 2002)

This 121 message thread spans 5 pages: < < 121 ( 1 2 3 [4] 5 > >
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