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Ads? What Ads?

September 28th, 2005

Over at Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum pointed out a number of problems with advertisements on web sites:

  • Ads that malfunction in a way that causes your browser to overload and use 95% of your system resources, effectively bringing your PC to a halt.
  • Ads that malfunction and cover up parts of the screen they aren’t supposed to.
  • Ads that flicker wildly for five or ten seconds before finally settling down.
  • Ads that somehow disable the Back button on your browser.
  • Related: ads that prevent you from leaving a site altogether, forcing you to shut down your browser in order to get further work done.
  • Ads that decline to close even though they supposedly have a close button.
  • Ads that prevent a site from loading just because the ad server is malfunctioning.

This above and beyond the usual things about ads that annoy people, such as pop-up and pop-under ads, moving ads using animated GIFs or worse, Flash animations, so that the periphery of so many sites look like crazed circuses.

However, when I read the article, I had to concentrate and imagine more than just a bit to accept this list. Actually, I have experienced maybe half of these things, but only while using my Windows machine, on the uncommon occasions where I surfed the web on XP. On my Mac, especially with the software package I’ve got, I don’t experience any of them. Not even the extra points I added about pop-unders and animated ads. It just isn’t an issue for me, at least not any more.

In case you’re wondering, I use Safari, which is not complete without Pith Helmet ($10 shareware) to complement it. What Safari doesn’t do, Pith Helmet does, blocking almost all ads and allowing you to tailor settings for each site. For example, I have plug-ins disabled so that Flash animations aren’t a problem. When I need or want to see Flash, I just go to the Pith Helmet menu and select site preferences, where you get a few dozen different settings related to cookies, scripts, plug-ins, animations, and security issues, tailored for that site. It’s actually a lot less complex than it sounds–left to itself, it does a brilliant job at stopping the advertising annoyances and making it much more comfortable and safe to surf the web. The $10 payment is on the honor system–you can turn off the infrequent fee reminders in the preferences–but I gladly paid the measly ten bucks for the great functionality.

That said, I have had some problems with Safari in terms of compatibility with sites–for example, Safari can’t see the formatting buttons on Blogger.com’s blog post editing page. But no problem–I have Firefox standing by, which resolves pretty much anything that Safari can’t handle–and Firefox itself has a lot of good ad-blocking features and extensions itself. In fact, if you’re using a PC or don’t like Safari on your Mac, go for Firefox and check out its extensions page for ad-fighting.

Just whatever you do, don’t ever use Internet Explorer, unless someone is holding a gun to your head. Out of principles if for no other reasons.

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