Pop-up ads used to be the bane of our online existence, all of manner of services — most of which were the kind that would never tempt you — would appear out of nowhere, taking your eyes and attention away from whatever it was you were doing.
I very deliberately say used to be because advertiser logic (in finally realising that we don’t like them) and in-browser blockers have largely curtailed the issue. However, in China, things are different and the government has just freely endorsed pop-up ads in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s China Real Time blog.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which regulates the Internet in the country, published a series of ‘rules’ [in Chinese] to create a healthier web in the country (yes, we realise that such a statement goes against its recent crackdown on social media).
While the list forbids Chinese ISPs from blocking users from using rival services, tricking them into dowloading software and other cheeky tactics, pop-ads are a notable absentee. Furthermore, it seems that the government has knowingly left them from the collection, according to the Q&A [in Chinese] that accompanies the ministry’s regulations, which is translated into English by China Real Time:
Pop-up ad windows are an issue to which users have a strong reaction. Since the free (services) model in China’s Internet services industry is built on subsidies from ad revenue, if pop-up ad windows were totally banned, it would change the industry’s current business model, in the end hurting the interests of users and affecting the industry’s development.
The document does instruct pop-up ad makers to provide a more obvious and clear way for ads to be closed, but essentially pop-up ads now have the green light to continue to pester Internet users in China.
Arguably, a ban on pop-up ads could have made a big difference. Though it would be unlikely to remove all of the ad type from Chinese cyberspace, it might force companies to be a little more imaginative in the ways that they communicate with their users.
In China, however, delivery is far more important than style. Chinese companies are amongst the guiltiest on the Web when it comes to astroturfing, or faking comments from users online. Indeed, a recent report exposed many of the issues behind the rise of paid-to-post web commenters, which are also know as China’s ‘water army’.
So, if you head out to China or are based in the country, make sure you’ve got an ad blocker, or a tolerance for attention grabbing, usually flashing, banner ads.