Wednesday, March 20, 2002


It's possible this will sound silly to the type of person who cruises the Internet at the speed of broadband, who has a DSL connection, or who complains about the slowness of his T1 line. If that's you, I have one thing to say: You're way ahead of the curve, pal.

For the bulk of us who are in the great 68% of computer users who haven't stopped washing our clothes once a week in order to save a few drachma to upgrade to the newest, latest, greatest, we access the Internet at speeds slightly less than optimal. My own computer -- which is at least five years old now -- came equipped with a 33.6 modem that I haven't upgraded. My employer has a T1 line -- but the computer he's provided me is even older, slower, and lacking in memory than my computer at home.

The problem is, my advertising brethren seem unable to fathom that such devices exist. They assume that I've logged onto the Internet solely to look at their ads, usually stuffed with streaming audio and video requiring plug-in after plug-in (none of which my employer, for instance, permits me to install, anyway).

So while I'll be attempting to look at the latest news from the world -- Cheney's in an undisclosed part of Jordan, we're sending troops to Indonesia, we're targeting Iraq, and suddenly no one's reporting on the state of nuclear alert between Pakistan and India -- these bleeping little popups will interrupt the flow of data to the screen I want to look at and suck my computer's memory and the telephone line's bandwidth to ask me if I want to apply for a credit card, refinance my home loan, or buy a digital camera that's apparently made specifically to spy on beautiful women who appear to be on the verge of disrobing.

I can stare for quite a while at a screen while this irrelevant activity prevents me from getting on with my day (or my employer's). Often the screen itself is enough to cause my browser to choke, gag, freeze or bomb. Often I get error messages.

Whenever possible, I nip these things in the bud. As soon as I see one assembling in the front window, I try to click the "close" box before it scurries, like the vermin it is, behind the main browser window. Note to advertisers: When I do this, you've paid for an impression that was never made. If I miss, I close it at first opportunity. Yes, you've made an impression. Unfortunately, I use that information to make a brand preference for the competing product.

Clearly I'm in the target audience for these messages. After all, the whole purpose of the Internet is to provide a precisely targeted advertising medium. So then these advertisers are ignoring the needs of their target consumers.

Therefore, a modest proposal to the programmers for Internet Explorer and Netscape: A backdoor for consumers only that enables me to access the personal financial information and accounts of the creators of these web ads any time they appear on my computer screen. You want to slow me down, that's fine. I'm taking your American Express card and flying to Las Vegas for the weekend. Including the gambling and the strip clubs.

If that isn't sufficient, perhaps we can simply have a little button in the browser that enables us to send a debilitating Trojan Horse to every computer and server at the company whose ad interrupts me online. And let's not forget the various agencies that participate -- the web design company, the ad agency and the ad server.

Not good enough? Then perhaps we can build a central Internet database and slowly add the e-mail address of everyone at the offending company to it. When it's big enough, we can just subscribe them all to the Teenage Androgynous Amputee Bisexual Bestiality E-Newsletter.

Who's with me?

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