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A pop-up blocker is software that prevents pop-up windows from appearing on a website. Some pop-up blockers work by immediately closing the pop-up window, while others disable the command that calls the pop-up window. Most browser software allows the user to turn the blocker on or off.
Pop-ups are usually used by advertisers as a way to deliver ads, but they distract Web users from their experience and most consider them a nuisance. This is why pop-up blockers were developed and have become a part of most Web browsers. Including a pop-up blocker in browser software helps it to work more effectively, because the browser knows when a website is attempting to open a new pop-up window and just ignores that request.
A pop-up blocker is also known as a pop-up killer.
For many users, pop-up behavior is quite irritating. Users may feel ambushed and distracted by pop-ups, which almost always consist of advertisements unrelated to the Web content the user is currently viewing. In the late '90s, browser manufacturers answered consumers' desire to inhibit pop-ups by releasing new versions of Web browsers with the ability to block them. The Opera browser was the first to offer this feature.
Pop-up blocking is usually enabled by means of a check-box that one must tick to enable pop-up blocking, or untick to disable. All the major browsers now support pop-up blocking.
Pop-up blockers may also be installed as third-party software tools. These typically incorporate additional features such as ad filtering and highly customizable pop-up blocking options. For the majority of users, however, the blockers built into all major browsers are perfectly adequate.
Not all pop-ups are a nuisance. In fact, some are very helpful. For example, pop-ups are often used to provide guidance to users on how to fill in a form on a Web page. Unfortunately, modern browsers may accidentally block these as well (hence the ability to enable or disable the whole feature). Some browsers have the ability to discern which pop-ups are genuine tools on the website and treat them differently from pop-up advertisements, a feature called intelligent blocking. Some browsers indicate to the user when they have blocked a pop-up, usually by means of a small information bar lasting a few seconds, an audible signal, or both.
Website designers and owners, in turn, have found creative new ways to circumvent pop-up blockers. A variant of the pop-up is the pop-under; just like a pop-up it also creates a secondary window. The difference is that the pop-up window does not become the active window. Instead, it hides behind the main browser window until it’s closed, whereupon the user can view the pop-up. Other sites use a so-called hover ad, which is also a superimposed advertisement. However, a hover ad is created using DHTML so that the browser does not recognize it as a secondary window and close it.
Although such advertising methods are crafty, they may backfire on the website’s owner if users simply stop visiting the site because of the in-your-face, distracting nature of pop-ups, pop-unders and hover ads.