In a move to woo subscribers away from competing Internet service providers(ISPs), EarthLink has released a new feature that allows Web surfers to block pop-up ads.
The company said its Pop-up Blocker is designed to prevent advertising windows from appearing above or under a customer’s main browser window. Each time an unwanted ad window is suppressed, the blocker alerts customers with an optional sound effect and a brief change in the appearance of the mouse icon.
“With Pop-Up Blocker, customers can better manage their time online and minimize the aggravation of unwanted, seemingly incessant pop-up ads,” said Rob Kaiser, EarthLink’s vice president of narrowband marketing.
Kaiser said the ad-blocking technology, which EarthLink recently acquired from Salt Lake City, Utah-based FailSafe Technology, will differentiate the ISP from its competition by allowing it to offer a “less intrusive Internet experience.”
But Giga Information Group analyst Ken Smiley told the E-Commerce Times that the pop-up ad manager is a short-term differentiator at best. MSN is coming out with a similar product in its next version, Smiley noted, and it would not be difficult for AOL to follow suit.
“These pop-up managers have been available for the past few years, and I haven’t seen a mass rush of consumers using them,” Smiley said. “I don’t think this is going to be a big differentiator for EarthLink.”
In fact, Smiley said, the pop-up blocker could cause user frustration because, as with any Internet filter, its results are not 100 percent accurate.
“The problem with some pop-up ad managers is that they prevent pages from displaying that you really would want to pop up,” said Smiley. “That could be a detriment if the user wanted to view that page.”
EarthLink execs seem to think they have the answer to that conundrum. The pop-up blocker lets users specify certain Web addresses or URLs where pop-up windows will be allowed. Customers also may override the technology.
However, Smiley said, “don’t expect the pop-up ad manager to be an end-all solution. There will still be some things that will get by it.”
The pop-up blocker is available now and will be included in TotalAccess 2003, EarthLink’s first major access software upgrade since 1999.
Other key features of the software include an e-mail upgrade that lets users share their stored e-mail addresses with EarthLink’s Web mail application; a task panel that provides one-click access to the Web, e-mail and personal Web space; and a faster-loading home page.
“TotalAccess focuses on providing subscribers with the flexibility to customize their Internet experience,” said Kaiser.
Millions for Marketing
The Atlanta, Georgia-based ISP is launching a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign to promote its new and improved service, touting faster service with the tagline “Why Wait?”
But the campaign has some analysts asking “Why bother?”
“I don’t think it’s ever been shown that consumers jump ship very often based on an ad campaign,” said Smiley. “It’s more about the service or the rates.”
He suggested that EarthLink’s money might be better spent in hiring more developers so consumers need not wait three more years for the next software upgrade.