Web annoyances — and how to deal with them
By Jay Dougherty: When you surf the web, you
probably want information, files, community or fun. But what you get, too
often, is frustration instead. That’s because, put simply, the number of
annoyances that await you on the web seems to grow by the day. It could be
pop-up ads or “welcome screens” that take over your entire browser,
commercials that appear before videos, or websites that seem to want to
prevent you from leaving. Whatever the annoyance, there’s usually a
solution. Read on to learn more.
You don’t have to surf the web long these days to see how ads have gotten out of control. Google’s relatively unobtrusive text-based Adsense ads are easy enough to tolerate, but many other types are not. Full-page “welcome screens” that appear before a web page loads, in-text ads that masquerade as hyperlinks, commercials embedded in videos — all of these represent virtual landmines that can sap your productivity and enjoyment of the web.
Start by ensuring that any pop-up blocking utility provided by your web browser is activated. Visit the Tools or Option panel and look for the pop-up blocker, adjusting settings to taste.
But browser-based pop-up blockers only go so far. If you use Firefox, you can get relief from most types of ads by installing the free and effective Adblock Plus (http://adblockplus.org). For those who use other browsers or want top-notch ad blocking that goes beyond Adblock Plus, consider trying out Ad Muncher (http://www.admuncher.com). While Ad Muncher is not free, it does a commendable job of removing all sorts of ads — including, in many cases, those embedded in videos. It can also put an end to resource-hogging flash videos and “pop under” windows that attempt to leave an ad on your screen long after the browser page that launched it has been closed.
A growing number of information repositories on the web want you to register with them before you gain unfettered access to the entire site. The reason is usually that, with the acquisition of your e-mail address, the sites are able to send you marketing materials, newsletters and reminders, in one form or another, to visit the site — and potentially contribute to its bottom line by clicking an ad or two.
The best way to get unfettered access to the sites that require registration while avoiding the annoyances that will possibly result from signing up is to use a special e-mail address for registering.
This could be a second or third e-mail address that you acquire from one of the free e-mail providers, such as Google. Or, if you’re looking for just a single-use e-mail address, consider one of the disposable e-mail services, such as Spamex (http://www.spamex.com), Mailinator (http://www.mailinator.com), or Guerilla Mail (http://www.guerrillamail.com). With these, you can quickly get an e-mail address that will last long enough for you to receive a registration confirmation e-mail message. Eventually, the e-mail address you create with these sites will expire, though — good news for those who want to keep their inboxes free of spam.
Many people go online today in search of answers. What does error message xxx000 mean? Why am I getting lines or dots in my digital images? Why is my computer not being seen on the network? The reason people search for such information online is that, often enough, the answers are out there. Unfortunately, a growing number of sites have been designed to provide the appearance of answering questions when their real intention is to serve you ads or solicit your money.
How can you fight back? One way is to use Google to create a custom search engine in which you can blacklist or exclude, those unhelpful websites from future search results. Start by visiting Google Custom Search (http://www.google.com’cse), and follow the prompts for creating a custom search engine. Once your engine is created, it will be easy to remove sites from it.
Another option, for Internet Explorer users, is to enlist the help of a browser plug-in such as Affine (http://www.calvert.ch’affine), which places two icons next to search results. One of the icons you can click to hide the site from future results; the other you can click to cause the site’s title to be displayed in a lighter shade, indicating that it’s of less interest. For those using Firefox, the “Block unwanted results” plug-in (http:”userscripts.org’scripts’show’9275) performs a similar function.
Sites that stick
It doesn’t take long these days to land on a website that refuses to let you back out by clicking the Back button. Or perhaps you’ve found that you can get to a previous site, but you need to click the Back button twice or more to do so.
These are two different problems with potentially the same solution. First, webmasters who create “sticky” sites that disable or refuse to let you back out once you’re in are pulling a programming trick that, regardless of intention, is bound to anger you and prevent you from knowingly visiting the sites again. Somehow there’s the misguided notion at play that if you can’t get out of a site, you’ll be tempted to do more within in — perhaps click an ad or two.
The problem of needing to click the Back button twice to move to a previously viewed site, however, is different, and it appears to be related to how some browsers — most notably certain versions of Internet Explorer — handle the coding or ad rendering on a web page.
Whether you’re dealing with the first or second problem, if your Back button is not disabled, the solution is to click the down arrow to the right of the Back’Forward buttons to select a previously visited site from the list that is stored there. And then, perhaps, make a mental note not to visit the troublesome site again. It should be noted that users of Internet Explorer seem to report the need to click the Back button twice more frequently than do users of Firefox or other browsers. So a browser change may also solve the problem.
— DPA / http://www.main.omanobserver.om