June 4, 2003, 12:00 AM

EarthLink becomes first major ISP to offer rich media ad blocker

Pop-ups and rich media ads are proliferating and could constitute nearly half of all Internet ads served up by the end of the year, the ISP says. A new blocking feature lets EarthLink users choose which ones they want to see.

The war on what consumers see as intrusive online advertising continues as Internet service provider EarthLink launches a new version of its Pop-Up Blocker that incorporates a feature that allows users to block rich media ads. The Atlanta-based ISP says rich media ads, which can take the form of pop-ups or animated and audio-enabled cartoons that move across web pages, are proliferating across the Internet and cites industry estimates that such ads could constitute nearly half of all Internet ads served up by the end of the year.

The rich media blocker is one of two features new to EarthLink’s Pop-Up Blocker, a free download for subscribers that was originally introduced last August. “Pop-up ads are evolving, and EarthLink is the first major ISP to include a rich media blocking feature that stops this annoyance from becoming a problem,” says Rob Kaiser, vice president of narrowband marketing at the company.

The other new feature allows users to set the Pop-Up Blocker, which previously blocked all pop-ups, to one of two levels. The “full" setting continues to stop all pop-ups, but the “normal” setting enables pop-up windows on clicked hyperlinks such as calendars or charts and also allows users to conduct business on secure web sites such as e-commerce or online banking sites while continuing to block superfluous pop-ups.

The decision to give subscribers the ability to choose to see some pop-ups and not others was the result of customer feedback since the feature was first launched last year, the company says. “Pop-up functionality can be beneficial to a subscriber’s Internet experience,’ says Kaiser. “Pop-Up Blocker enables customers to block the ads they don’t want to see while empowering them to use the Internet on their own terms.” Release of the new version of the tool follows the company’s release last week of a new spamBlocker download, a permission-based spam-fighting feature that blocks most junk-mail.

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