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Tab Closed; Didn't Read (tabcloseddidntread.com)
224 points by ilyakhokhryakov on Nov 25, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 85 comments

My bank displays an overlay every time I log in, asking me to install some dumb antivirus from some dumb company in exchange for $25 (#notabubble).

It was annoying me, so I sent them a message saying I had installed the antivirus (I hadn't, it's Windows only and I use OSX at work and Linux at home) and asked for my $25. They appeared a few days later in my bank account.

But the darn popup kept appearing every time. A month or two later, I messaged them again, saying I had installed the antivirus. A few days later, $25 in my bank account.

Oh well. If you pay me for your dumb popups, why not. I plan on messaging them again in a month or so :) (can't make it too obvious)

For that $50 they could have just given you one of those little RSA key fobs (or equivalent). Assuming their goal is increased security, that is.

OTOH, if it's just "offers from our partners" spam, I'd ditch them immediately. That's the kind of crap I expect from free file sharing sites or something, not the entity that holds my money.

While I'm all for sticking it to the man, isn't this a legally dangerous thing to do?

Posting about it on HN might be :-P

If they pay for installs, why not?

Nothing stops you from uninstalling it the next day.

Use Sandboxie, it makes stuff like that trivial.

If they were smart they wouldn't be paying their customers to install their spyware, they'd penalize them for accessing their site without installing it. For their own "security".

That's probably illegal though. I hope.

don't worry, most probably they will take it back from you with its interest.

I've never used a credit card in my life :)

They might be able to take it directly from your bank account, especially since it seems like your bank partners with them.

I keep a bookmarklet around to destroy elements on a webpage for this very reason. http://jsfiddle.net/6jbJc/

Stuff like this, where flash is being replaced by html5+javascript, is what has me worried about Firefox removing the "disable javascript" checkbox from prefs (yes I know it can still be turned off in about:config but that's unacceptable). When we make javascript ubiquitous, these dark UI/UX patterns are only going to get worse.

Furthermore, why doesn't Firefox allow me more control over the data that's sent to and from my machine? The functionality that plugins like Disconnect and Adblock Edge have should be mandatory user preferences. There should never be a way for things like Flash LSO's and Evercookies to stay persistent in my web browser cache if I don't want them.

And we're still waiting on third-party cookies to be blocked in Firefox by default. That's been pushed back so much that I wonder if they faced too much outrage from advertising companies to make this happen.

Mozilla's argument is that all of that functionality is better left to plugins. People can make just as compelling arguments for all kinds of functionality and consequently firefox is moving in the direction of becoming a kitchen sink.

I think we could use a better middle ground, like a mozilla-endorsed "pack" of vetted plugins to improve privacy. As it is now, Adblock is the #1 plugin and NoScript is the #4 so this stuff is definitely important to users.


I think Mozilla makes a sound technical argument... but it's stilly to pretend ad blocking isn't also a political issue on some level.

> removing the "disable javascript" checkbox from prefs (yes I know it can still be turned off in about:config but that's unacceptable)

Why is that unacceptable? How many pages actually work without javascript?

Like it or not, javascript is an essential part of a web browser. To disable it you should have to know what you're doing.

A lot of that javascript is just to link bloat to the contents of interest. Javascript is consuming my processing power, and don't ask me to just get a ever bigger/larger battery or more processing power so I could afford to waste on that bloat.

In Chrome, you can also use Shift-Cmd-C <hover select> <backspace>. Perfect for killing the stupid floating bar at the top of the viewport.

Seeing that 90% of Firefox money come from google, that's not much of a surprise.

While you may find this annoying, these kinds of screens perform very well when used appropriately. You may drop off, but most people won't. Until that stops happening you will keep seeing these, and making a whiny site about it certainly won't do anything to help.

You are completely right except that making a whiny site about it will help. It's arguable how much, but ridicule is an effective agent of social change. The more popular this and similar jokes get the fewer consumers will see because they won't work as well.

How many "punch the whatever" flash banner ads do you see lately.

Seconding this unpopular opinion.

A site I was consulting was getting a depressingly low number of email subscribers, so we tested one of these modal popups that prompted the visitor to subscribe... It worked wonderfully. To minimize the annoyance we set it to pop up only once for each visitor (based on cookies).

It wouldn't be so popular if it wasn't effective.

What's the thinking behind putting an email signup form over the top of the content? That content would be the thing that might make me actually want to sign up, but to find out, I need to close the email signup form.

Maybe email signups were depressingly low because nobody actually gave a toss about their marketing emails, and all you did was trick a small percentage of viewers into signing up for a mailing list they have no interest in because they thought they had to sign up to close the modal. I completely fail to see how your client got any value out of this at all.

Any is a very finite word. As much as I don't like the practice, parent's data doesn't lie, they had more signups. Whether those signups have high customer lifetime value or even stick around are another matter that requires different data to understand. Parent has enough data to make the first conclusion, you don't have enough data to make the second.

But the first conclusion is completely meaningless without the data for the second. That's my point. It's this worship of numbers while ignoring the actual people that these numbers represent that has led to these intrusive practices.

We can go back and forth on this, but I'm just saying that for the same reason you say it's meaningless (i.e. lack of data), I am saying that you also don't know. Something is always better than nothing, unless you have actual reason and data to say otherwise.

The most frustrating thing with these popups is when they come up after clicking through from the site's email newsletter. Some sites I visit do it on every single page load, which is a really good way to make an engaged subscriber unsubscribe.

Agreed, that's annoying and just lazy marketing/development.

> based on cookies.

Which, if I'm not an intimate viewer of your site, means every time.

The thing is, if you're visiting some business's site often enough that this kind of repetition is going to bug you but you're not actually engaging in a way that is beneficial for them, you are exactly the kind of dead weight that they are probably better off without from a commercial point of view. Irritating you enough that you go away and stop wasting their bandwidth is likely to be a (very small) win for them.

Of course, if you're visiting a site for a person or organisation that you are actually engaging with and they still do this, you are entitled to feel karmic smugness the next time they forget their umbrella and it rains. :-)

Or I visit the site using mobile phone, tablet and computer at separate times. And folks can have more than one of those too.

That was what I tried to indicate with the "intimate viewer". If you've shown enough value to me that I register an account with you, cookies are on.

But if you're some site I'm just visiting for the first time, then no, you don't get free use of my disk and machine to track me. When I mentioned "every time", for some sites, this is often "every page load" — so I'm not a repeat visitor.

You probably just left it out, but what was the effect on traffic to the website and as follow-on, sales? I'm thinking the goal was not to have more email subscribers, the goal was probably to sell more stuff via the website.

You're right to ask those questions -- on most sites it would be foolish to optimize for email subscribers at the cost of customers. In this case, however, it was a preview site and there was nothing to buy or download, so the most we could hope for was capturing the visitor's email.

I don't use any of these techniques but I occasionally encounter something similar with my e-mail newsletters. I have over 160,000 subscribers so they're not entirely unpopular but I'll sometimes hear from someone saying "No-one uses e-mail anymore. I can't trust you won't spam me or sell my address! Why don't you offer RSS?"-wacka-wacka. My response is usually that it's not for everyone and have a nice day ;-)

I don't mind as much when they at least bother to bind the ESC key to close the overlay.

I hit ESC and it goes away. Not sure why it needed to be there in the first place (is there anyone on the planet that actually looks at these things?)

is there anyone on the planet that actually looks at these things?

Yes. I mean, I don't have the data, but sites like Upworthy (who are featured) make 25 different headlines for every post, then test the hell out of them to see which one performs best. I'd be amazed if they didn't bother to also test the performance of popups like that.

Upworthy is the worst. "Murder is bad! # Agree # Disagree" And where do they post the results of all these hard-hitting surveys they do?

That would be worse. I use the Escape key to stop page loads, and if a keybinding interrupts that expected functionality, I get pissed. Key example: Gmail. I don't know what it sucks Esc to, but it doesn't direct it to the browser.

Web developers should really stick to the accesskey event which accepts alphanumeric bindings, and nothing else. Anything outside of that is likely to be used by the browser. I mean, there are some obvious exceptions (C-b for bold in a WYSIWYG editor) but as a rule of thumb it should be avoided.

I dunno... binding Esc to close lightboxes is pretty web-standard, and I'm very glad when it closes those annoying lightboxes too. Hunting for the tiny "x", which is often intentionally hard to find, gets tiring.

In fact, I had no idea Esc stopped page loads. Has that been a standard thing too? Although I must admit, stopping page loading is not something I hardly ever find myself doing...

> In fact, I had no idea Esc stopped page loads. Has that been a standard thing too?

Has been as long as I can remember. Not that I use it much anymore with fat pipes (in comparison to a 9600 baud modem) being commonplace.

There is a lot of use in websites having shortcut keys though. For example using space to pause videos or the arrow keys to rewind. Not everything is optimal for the mouse.

esc stops page loading, not javascript execution. Gmail is essentially a javascript application.

The mobile equivalents of these are worse.

No, I'm not going to install your app — I just want to see the content hiding behind this stupid ad. Even if I did install your app, I'd have to re-navigate to that content within your app.

One of the samples is a paywall - it's supposed to block content unless you've jumped through the hoop. It's not trying to 'enhance your experience' or do market research. It doesn't make sense to complain that you can't see the content in this context.


I guess it's just personal preference... I find this practice mildly annoying, but I'm not likely to join a boycott. For most sites, I'd gladly click through a prestitial ad than pay even a very small amount of money (if the choice were offered).

EDIT: And full disclosure: I run ads like this sometimes (though rarely on the first page load, that's kinda obnoxious). I don't love them because there is definitely a population of people they piss off and I hate pissing off anyone... but it seems like a pretty small minority. They covert really really well. Like, way better than any other web ad type.

I did a poll in a developer community about running some free or cheap online training sessions. I got about 1000 replies and the majority said they'd prefer they were free with a sponsor message somewhere in the session compared to say even just $10-20. It seems if you can make it work for the advertiser, people still prefer it to paying cold hard cash.

I'm surprised quora isn't included.

Quora and Quartz are two of my least-liked websites. Quora because it obscures content, Quartz because its layout is just so utterly execrable that it gets in the way of reading the content.

Another trick for me is to have Readability's "Read Now" bookmarklet on by bookmarks toolbar, which renders unreadable pages readable ... most of the time.

But as with OP, I find this trend hugely annoying and very regrettable.

http://blog.quora.com/Making-Sharing-Better "Open any Quora URL. If you come across a Quora link anywhere and you want to read it without being asked to join Quora, you can add the text "?share=1" to the end of the URL."

Works for me the first time and then no longer have to manually add it in for subsequent quora links.

I'm surprised they document this instead of making it e default. What's the point?

Man, adding a close button sure is a hard thing to do these days. Come on Quora, it's bad for your business, and we all know it.

Is that strategy working for them ? I dont think so, so why are they doing that ? user would naturally register if they have questions to ask, so why do that? i cant understand this UX (or lack of...). I did not register on quora for that reason Unless your content is behind a paywall ,dont do that , that's stupid.

Yeah when I saw this I was immediately reminded of these threads:



I'm adding them this morning. This all got a little viral before I'd finished adding the content I'd collected.

This kind of misbehavior is why my javascript is off by default.

Sadly, many of these sites and interstitials are driven by CSS.

Really? Do you have any examples I can point my browser at? My experience is that, yes, they're implemented in CSS, but triggered by javascript.

Occasionally, I have to inspect the page and add a "display:none;" Alternatively, if a site is totally broken without javascript and I don't want to add an exception for it, I'll open it in another browser.

This method is a bit of a pain, but it's the lesser of two evils (for me).

You're probably right that it's both. That said, you can nuke these with CSS. I've taken to pretty liberally modifying site stylesheets (I've compiled almost 700 of these), and nuking things like interstitials, "social" toolbars, "related content", slide-outs, etc., is high up my list. A few of those are now in my default CSS (the Tumbler teaser most notably). Pretty easy to do using Stylebot (Chrome).

The only time I enjoy the presence of JavaScript is during particle simulations.

...well, maybe fractal demos too.

I especially dislike when there isn't a close button but rather a text link somewhere on the promo.

I really dislike sites that have broken CSS that is fixed by JS. I either disable CSS to read them, or I just close them.

For what it's worth, 9 times out of 10, you can hit the "Reader" button in Safari and it will show you the article without you clicking on anything in the ad. This way you get the content you wanted, you don't look at the ad, and it doesn't register that you clicked on anything, even the close box.

It's how I get around the "you exceeded your article reads for the day/week/month, subscribe to read the article" of the Seattle Times. The content's hiding right behind that popup. Feedly's "remove clutter" button in their iOS app works equally well.

A popup by any other name is still terrible.

I love sites that do this. Why anyone would block access to their own content is beyond me.

People do it because it performs much much better in many funnel optimization scenarios.

Nice! I use AdBlock to shun the ads but something like CB2 [0] will still show up. The most irritating ones for me are AllThingsD [1] and Forbes (I'm surprised no one has submitted it as yet) which have an intermediate landing advertisement page before proceeding to the main content.

[0] http://tabcloseddidntread.com/post/68095629679/now-shopping-...

[1] http://tabcloseddidntread.com/post/68051843383/or-just-close...

If it's a site I visit regularly then:

1. I already subscribed/signed up/know about.

2. It's a really annoying advertisement which could have been shown in a sidebar or, really, anywhere else.

If it's a site I don't visit regularly I'm just there for the content - usually via a link from somewhere else - and I'm extremely likely to close the tab or at least completely ignore it.

I'm trying to think of an example where this kind of pop over has been helpful but can't

Yeah, all that stuff bugs me too.

I am curious, are there web analytics that let publishers know that a page was seen them immediately closed?

(Or that say your video was stopped after 3 seconds?)

I am curious, are there web analytics that let publishers know that a page was seen them immediately closed?

Yes, it's called Google Analytics.

If you're using Google Analytics you can look at bounce rates and time-on-site. You can also track video actions (start, stop, pause, etc) with event tracking.

Besides being amazed that website authors still title sites "Welcome to ACME Widgets", so when I bookmark the site "ACME" gets sorted down to the "W's". Clearly these sites with modal overlays have not read this article: http://www.uie.com/articles/three_hund_million_button/

The Tom's hardware one bugs me the most. For anyone who (thankfully) hasn't seen it yet, you get it by scrolling to the bottom of one of their question-and-answer posts, soon after the last answer (and it doesn't make it very obvious which one is last). If I found an answer in the thread, why on earth would I want to go check out another question?!

As long as we're complaining about things that a lot of websites do, can I mention something annoying about the "Tab Closed; Didn't Read" site itself?

At the bottom of the page, it has a links marked "Previous" and "Next". "Next" takes you to the previous entries, and "Previous" takes you to the next entries.

I've tried to attend LinkedIn of their horrible mobile experience. No change as of yet. Any link you click in an email of theirs, or any link while on your phone for that matter, brings you to that stupid app promo and breaks whatever deeplink you clicked.

Could somebody write a Chromium plugin for this? Close the tab and report it directly.

I love browsing those sites with my mobile devices.

Wasn't expecting to see this on HN this morning. Feel free to suggest particularly egregious offenders for me to include.

AdBlock + NoScript + Ghostery. kthxbai.

RequestPolicy is a little bit of all those wrapped up into one plugin that does whitelisting.


As much as I like RequestPolicy, it doesn't do JS blocking if the JS comes from the same domain as the page you're visiting, or any whitelisted domains.


AdBlock features "Acceptable Ads", by means of which advertisers are blackmailed to pay AdBlock so that their ads still go through.

Ghostery belongs to an advertisement business. And sure enough, they disable tracking for third parties while proceeding to track you on their end. Priceless.

> AdBlock features "Acceptable Ads", by means of which advertisers are blackmailed to pay AdBlock so that their ads still go through.

Why should I care? By installing AdBlock I've already declared that I don't care about the "moral" side of ad revenue. If browsing the web without AdBlock is annoying, and browsing with AdBlock is non-annoying, I'm going to browse with AdBlock. If this paid exemption mechanism let enough ads through to make the web annoying again then I'd feel the need to do something about it, but so far it hasn't.

Right click. Inspect element. Delete. If you’re feeling charitable.

Tab Closed; Didn't Read

And this is also why people type in "Ad block" in to Google. It is the obnoxious few that ruin it for the rest of us. Now 100 people won't view your quiet embedded ad because some video pop-up. And these are mainstream websites that shouldn't be using dirty tricks like this.

These websites are losing business. They are listening to a team of marketers who are looking for quick conversions. What about that long term reader of a decade who just deleted your bookmark?

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