Product Reviews

How Google Bursts the Pop-Up Bubble

Google's toolbar comes with a fairly effective pop-up killer—and it's free.

I've lived with popups for too long, methodically shutting down window after window, that it was time to take some action. I reviewed STOPzilla and was pretty pumped over this tool. (For a review of STOPzilla's toolbar, which includes a pop-up blocker, click here; or read the head-to-head review here.) That's until I talked to Keith Ward, our senior editor. Keith has had great luck with the Google toolbar, which can be configured to block popups, and it's free. Why pay $20 a year for something Google gives for free? I had to find out.

I downloaded the Google toolbar, which asked for permission to send URLs back to a central site. It promised that my privacy would be protected, so I said Okay.

At first it worked even better than STOPzilla. I never got a single popup. The only price, it seemed, was the toolbar itself, which squeezed my browser window by about a third of an inch. As much as I hate complexity and to lose space, this was an acceptable concession.

Then I noticed the screen going blank and flashing and the laptop clicking every time I moved to a new page. This was almost as aggravating as the popups. I put up with it for two popup-free weeks, then I'd had enough. I tried to reconfigure Google to not transmit the URLs, but there was no apparent way to reset the tool this way. It seemed pop-up blocking, as effective as it is, is an afterthought for the search king.

STOPzilla claims its edge on its competitors is its ability to stop popups that come from adware/spyware. The company claims that some 80 percent of all popups derive from this insidious software, which can come from downloading a simple weather-tracking tool or file-sharing client.

To put Google up to the same challenge; I downloaded AdAware 6.0 from Lavasoft and dispensed with 30 files related to spyware/adware. Based on this, one can only conclude that Google does a fine job with adware/spyware-based popups. However, Google admits that adware popups can sneak through and recommends software that removes adware.

For me, the main issue is usability. So, in the end, I stuck with STOPzilla. It works, is easy to set to allow all popups, or filter the ones I really want using a blacklist. It is unobtrusive, and has made computing more joyous.

Running pop-up blockers is a great idea, but it's not enough. Your organization should have clear guidelines about spyware. Users should not download every new tool such as Kazaa or Weatherbug—many of them hide spyware. And you should consider filtering software that weeds out these URLs. And regularly going through workstations to remove spyware is a great idea for any shop.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Mar 18, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous

STOPzilla is terrible software. I produces laugable false positives, is resource greedy and extremely difficult to remove from your system.

Thu, Feb 28, 2008 WeatherBugUser LA

Stop this nonsense about WeatherBug. You do not have a clue of what this is and does and about the company.

I would like you to do some research and come up with a report with some facts.

You supposed to be a product reviewer. This is extremely unprofessional.

Wed, Apr 5, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

To set the pop-up blocker count back to zero, hold down the 'Shift' and 'Alt' keys while clicking on the pop-up blocker button.

Tue, Sep 27, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

How do you empty the google pop-up blocker?

Thu, Mar 10, 2005 carmen Anonymous

google has done a very good job on blocking pop-ups,however it has blocked darn near 400 ads.Do these ads stay blocked or do i need to empty them?And if so how?

Sat, Dec 11, 2004 Anonymous NJ

I would appreciate your thoughts on Yahoo's free:
-popup blocker
- adwarespyware remover (my experience is that it's good at detecting these but is not able to remove many of them (very frustrating). Thanks

Tue, Apr 27, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

I've installed Google's blocker on many, many machines without a hitch. When installing, do not install the advanced option...and you avoid sending data to Google...while still blocking the pop-ups for free.

Sat, Mar 20, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

Take a little intuition in fixing the problem, before critizing the toolbar.

As proven google must still have a problem idiot-proofing their software... Because this one slipped by...

Sat, Mar 20, 2004 Vasco da Gama

um, it was an afterthought, it's a SEARCH TOOLBAR numnuts

Wed, Mar 17, 2004 Bobby Keller Charlotte, NC

how to stop popups

Mon, Mar 8, 2004 victor california

I found that it eliminates most popups, however you have to remember to hit the ctrl button to let certain things pop up.

Thu, Mar 4, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

Google works pretty well!

Wed, Mar 3, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous is much better

Mon, Mar 1, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous


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