One of the most compelling features of Firefox, for many users, is its
built-in pop-up blocking. However, the advertising networks and webmasters
looking to inflict pop-up ads on users weren't content to allow Firefox
users (or anyone else, for that matter) to browse in peace. It's not
surprising that, as Firefox gains in popularity, the Mozilla team would be
faced with an "arms race" with advertisers determined to spawn pop-ups on
all visitors to sponsored sites.
This writer has recently noticed that some sites had begun spawning
pop-ups, despite the fact that Firefox's preferences had been configured to
block them. After so long without having to cope with pop-ups, it was
doubly annoying to see the nuisance starting all over again.
For the most part, before Firefox and other pop-up blockers appeared on the
loads. The Firefox pop-up blocking settings were very successful in
blocking almost all pop-up ads. The notable exception, at least for this
user, was the New York Times website, which was one of the first sites to
find a workaround for Firefox's pop-up blocking.
pop-ups. Notably, Flash, Java and other plugins are capable of spawning
pop-ups and bypass the restrictions used to stop pop-ups spawned by
features in Flash or Java to spawn pop-ups, users can install the Pop-ups
Must Die! extension.
Alternately, users can get the same effect by manually fine-tuning
Firefox's settings. The first change, adding
privacy.popups.disable_from_plugins" is described here.
The extension also changes the value of
dom.popup_allowed_events" to block all allowed pop-up
events. This can be done by entering "about:config" in the Firefox address
bar, and finding "
dom.popup_allowed_events," and removing all
of the options. These are the only two changes made by the extension.
The changes seem to have been very effective -- perhaps a little too
effective. Several users have complained that the extension blocks
requested pop-ups as well. This is true, but Firefox still allows users to
whitelist sites after a pop-up has been blocked by the new settings. This
writer considers it a small price to pay to avoid unrequested pop-ups. For
those who would rather deal with the occasional unrequested pop-up, one may
privacy.popups.disable_from_plugins" to "1" to allow
pop-ups to be opened when a link is clicked. This will limit the number of
windows opened by a link, so nefarious webmasters cannot open an unlimited
number of windows.
Determined webmasters, however, can find ways to inflict advertising on
users in other ways. Consider this site which was pointed out
in the discussion
about the "Pop-ups Must Die!" extension. Rather than spawning a pop-up, it
creates a frame within the window that blocks the content of the site until
the frame "window" is closed. Without disabling frames, which would cause a
great deal of problems for sites that use them legitimately, it's difficult
to imagine how one could avoid this kind of "pop-up." (Note, disabling
frames by changing the value of "
false appears to break Firefox entirely.)
Ultimately, the best solution may not rest with Firefox. Users who are
offended by pop-ups, and other intrusive advertising, have an infallible
weapon at their disposal -- stop visiting sites that insist on using
pop-ups. While it would require a great number of users to be effective,
even the most persistent webmasters and advertisers would have to
reconsider their methods if they have no audience for their ads.
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