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Internet of Popups

Sept. 22, 2018

Doing research on any kind of topic often means reading articles from many different sources. One thing has become rather problematic over the last few years: All the popup notifications that come up when attempting to read an article.

First, I have to click away a popup explaining that the website uses cookies. Almost all websites in existence use cookies. They use them to save user preferences, keep users authenticated, or - one of the more negative aspects - to track them for advertising purposes. These popups should not exist. The EU requirement for websites to get the users consent for accepting cookies surely had good intentions, but at the end it just leads to a poor user experience. Websites often require me to accept them, or they block me entirely from using the website.

But for some websites it doesn't stop there. I start reading a few lines of the article, and oh wonder, the next distraction comes along: Subscribe to our newsletter! Websites like these really don't want me to read their articles, they just want to spam my email inbox and shove me advertisements into the face. The content doesn't matter. And because this has become so common, doing research has become rather cumbersome.

Ultimately, in addition to an Ad-Blocker (uBlock Origin), I decided to also get an Add-On against the cookie popups: I don't care about cookies. I guess the name says it all. Now, I only need something against newsletter popups and the web might actually be usable again. It's crazy how poor the user experience has become for Internet users, browsing the web without an Ad-Blocker or popup blocker is a frustrating exercise.

It's all about money

I don't blame these websites entirely though, they are doing what they can to make some money back. Hosting websites isn't free after all.

What we really need is for a simple way to support websites with money that doesn't require us to watch annoying advertisements and that doesn't involve subscribing to each website separately. Not only would that add up to an absurd amount of money each month, it also becomes a nightmare to manage.

A service with a similar idea already exists: Flattr. However, this is not a non-profit and it's not a decentralized, anonymous payment system. I am not convinced that having a single, for-profit company as a middle-man is a good idea for this.

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