Click! Why are there so many ads?

In response to the article, “Click Trajectories: End-to-End Analysis of the Spam Value Chain,” which was an incredible article with a whopping 15 authors, I’m using this week to recall two of my least favorite online spam and ad experiences.

This first experience has happened to me several times. Somehow I’ll end up on a random website advertising a specific product. Then I’ll be all like, “Whoa, that’s weird.” So then I try to exit out of the page. Instead of exiting out, the site redirectes to the purchase page and an error box pops up and looks really scary like “you’ve got a virus, start begging for mercy” but it is just telling you what a great deal you’re missing out on. So I try to exit again. The site redirects again, putting me on a page that is essentially begging for my credit card number. Another equally scary box pops up once again reminding me of all I’m missing out on. Usually by the third or fourth try, the site will close. Either that or I’ve restarted my computer at that point. But this aggressive play always makes me feel like the site is going to take over my computer and slowly kill it from the inside. Still, I wonder who actually buys “products” – whether real or not – featured on sites like that.

Another experience is one that I’m sure almost everyone is at least slightly familiar with – spam via email. It starts out innocently enough… an email here, an email there. It advertises great deals in the subject line, deals that are “never going to happen again.” Then the email start to get more frequent, until it seems like you’re getting them every day. Because you are. Now, there’s two types to this type of spam – solicitated or unsolicitated. A lot of the time the company gets your contact information directly from you, whether you typed it in online to actually sign up for said newsletter, typed it in online to make an account on a website, or were asked for your email when purchasing a product in a store. If it was one of these, you can usually opt out of the spam. The rest of the time? You’re on your own.

While online advertisements can be obnoxious at times, I think it’s important to remember that they’re also neccessary. A large portion of the time, they’re financially supporting the online content that we’re enjoying for free. Advertisements keep websites alive… so do Click Trajectories.

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