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Net Nuisance

March 05, 2003 13:05 IST

What irritates surfers most about the Internet and what they're doing to counter it

Have you been receiving email that guarantees to increase a certain part of the male anatomy or keep your woman happy forever? Have you got emails, from unknown individuals or companies, that do not appear to be mass-mailed, directed specifically at you?

Have you been browsing the Net and minding your own business when another browser window suddenly open by itself, only to reveal a casino, a pesky little spycam or an annoying survey that will win you $10,000?

And have you attempted to close these windows, only to have another one open, and then another and then...

Net NuisanceWelcome to the world of Net irritants. Pop-ups, spam, junk mail and the like constitute the annoyances most surfers have to deal with as part of the surfing experience. While 18 states in the United States have passed laws regulating spam, the Indian scenario is quite different, with surfers left unprotected.

"Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to use the Internet for pleasure. It has become a major marketing avenue for companies and no matter what you do, you cannot avoid being contacted by one company or another, trying to market their products or services," says Awais S, a Mumbai-based businessman.

We found out what users find most annoying on the Net and what they're doing to counter it.


Imagine surfing for important information and suddenly being accosted with a screen that you didn't want opened. Advertisements in pop-ups range from spycams and casinos, to surveys and even pornographic sites. "They're number 1 on my 'irritating' scale and I'm obsessive about closing each and every one!" says Amit Mathur, a student in France.

"I hate when pop-ups hide the 'close' tab, so you can't figure out how to get rid of them!" says Christina Hughes, a PhD student at Harvard University, Boston.

"I am one of those people who has to close every one of the pop-up ad windows before proceeding. I just cannot work with all those windows open," says Statira Ranina, a Mumbai-based lawyer.

On the other hand, Christina claims to be a 'piler'. "I let all the pop-ups build up behind my main Web page, and get rid of them at the end. This results in comically hurried surfing when my boss is coming toward me, as I hastily try and close every open window before he gets to my desk!" she says. "I would love it if there was some way to get rid of them, especially the sleazy ones, like secret video cameras. Is everyone on the Web a pervert?"

"Close every pop-up as it opens," advocates software and media analyst Adi Kishore. "Letting the media download into the pop-up browser window delays the download of the page you wanted originally."


Also known as Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) or Unsolicited Bulk Email (UBE), this is when you are bombarded with dozens of unwanted emails, several advertising products you don't want or sites you most certainly don't want to visit. Although there are a variety of anti-spam software available, as well as blocks within email hosts like Yahoo and Hotmail, not many users find these very effective.

"I hate spam, particularly pornographic email," says Nairika Kotwal Cornett, a lawyer from Georgia. "I am a Hotmail user and get inundated with porn in my junk mail. I have entered the addresses of people I email and the rest goes to my junk mail folder. But every time I go through the folder just to see if someone is trying to get in touch, I get thoroughly upset with the rubbish I find."

In an effort to stop receiving spam, Statira set her email preferences only to receive mail from her contacts list. "If someone not in the list writes to me, it goes straight into junk mail. Then, I have to go through the junk to ensure that none of my regular email has gone in there. It's all very frustrating."

For executive Kerrilyn Porro, installing protection software, with pop-up blocking and spam-stopping options has made her a happier surfer, and she recommends it to everyone.

Christina on the other hand, created an entirely new account separate from her main email account. "I set up a Yahoo account specifically for signing up. This keeps my regular mailbox clear for my friends and for work. I delete everything from my Yahoo account once a week."

Awais suggest that users not register themselves for special offers or promotions on the Internet. "I registered myself with Symantec, writers of the acclaimed software Norton Antivirus, and today I get about 100 junk emails a day on my office email id, including offers for adult sites. This causes me a great deal of embarrassment, not to mention waste of time," he says.


While pop-ups and spam top the list of irritants, there are several other annoying factors to Web surfing. Here is what people say about some of them:

"When you are trying to go somewhere, but you are redirected to an advertisement before you can get to the page you are looking for. The Onion does that for its AV Club page now, and it drives me crazy!" - Christina Hughes.

Sites that take you through multiple marketing messages before you can get to the page that you want." - Adi Kishore.

"Sites which automatically add themselves to my favourites, or keep prompting me to make them my start-up page, like some sports sites" - Awais

"No pop-ups or cookies. I don't want to be followed when I am doing research." - Nita Udeshi, Framingham.

"Sites that make you ‘sign-in to view teased links'. - Kerrilyn Porro.

"Tricky domain names. I once went to a site for a school paper and realised after typing that it was a porn site!" - Nairika Kotwal Cornett

While Net irritants are here to stay, some users actually have an idea that might turn those annoying little pop-up boxes into lucrative advertising avenues for companies on the Web.

"Pop-ups and banner ads should be more reader focused," says Amit Mathur. "In much the same way as suggests books that suit the taste of the visitor to the site, companies and advertisers need to figure out a way in which the ads are relevant to the viewer."

Gopika Vaidya Kapoor