(updated 12/12/2012)

Misleading advertisements...

Think of surfing the Internet as taking a walk through a foreign marketplace full of new and unusual sights and sounds that you may not readily recognize for what they really are. Virtually everything you'll come across is commercial in the Internet marketplace - products and services ranging from the "no promises" homemade to the fully-patented, fully-warranted - so beware.

Perhaps you have noticed eye-catching "pseudo windows", banners and other graphics like these while you surf the Internet. They are all ads. Some are harmless and useful, while others are misleading and potentially damaging.

The "buttons" below look official - they appear to be legitimate opened windows - with text commanding you to take action. But - messages waiting for you are never flagged this way, and nothing short of a deliberate test could tell you or anyone whether or not your Internet connection is "optimized".

This ad, and ads like it, plays on the gamer in all of us looking for a challenge. But there is no skill in clicking on the monkey here - the entire area of the ad is one big hyperlink...

In this case, the entire area of the ad is again one big hyperlink, but the ruse is different...

Sites that want your email address like the one below or those with a similar story - "You must include your email address so we can notify you of your prize winnings." or "Monthly Giveaway Drawing Entry Form" or "Win free lobsters by registering your e-mail address!" may be (are probably!) planning to add you to a mailing list. Mailing lists are often sold - getting yourself on one list will often put you on a number of others. If you don't want to receive unwanted mail, don't give your email address up easily. Get a temporary email address from Yahoo or MSN that you can blow off if you start to receive junk mail.

Perhaps the most annoying of ads are the ones that "pop up" on you - due to Java scripting beneath links and other objects you click legitimately. It is June 2001 : you must have seen this ad popping up after all kinds of routine activities. It comes up in a new browser window that can be closed or used to progress from. The entire area of this particular pop-up is one big hyperlink. Clicking on any part of the image takes you where they want you to go (not just the "Get more info" button). Judging by the location in the location bar, the ad content will change periodically, but they will all likely be of the same obtrusive type.

Whatever draws the eye is not necessarily a good thing. Use your own judgement - avoid being misled.

A side issue of advertisements is the time they take while downloading. Sympatico's home page loads ads from a location like ad.doubleclick.net - as do many other pages. Often you will find yourself waiting for the ad to appear before the rest of the page will. This is also part of the price we pay for the privilege of "walking through the marketplace".

(If you watch in the lower left portion of your browser screen, you can see this happening for yourself...)

So, what can you do? You can try an ad blocker, which works by screening the incoming page elements for keywords like "ad" or any keyword of your choosing, or for known ad links, ad sources or other ad phrases. Some ads will still get through, but download pages will be substantially thinner, and will load more quickly. You can also try turning off Java script (see that control in your browser's preferences), but many good pages will no longer appear or won't appear in their entirety.

I recommend trying an ad blocker if you are using a 56K or less connection. Simply learn to ignore the ads (easier than you might think) if you have a DSL, cable or faster connection.

Of course, the Internet without commercials would certainly be a more expensive and less colourful place - somewhat like commercial TV compared to pay-per-view, so I have learned to just accept the Internet for what it is. I can still find lots of interesting and worthwhile sites to visit out there, without being too distracted or disrupted while surfing.

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