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A History of Pop-ups and How to Allow Them on Safari


In the earliest days of surfing the web, pop-up ads haunted us all. If we clicked on the wrong website, we might find the content suffocated by a million pop-ups–mostly ads–that sought to gain our consumer dollars or were a cloak that hackers hid behind. Pop-ups became synonymous with the worst of the internet, and we avoided them like a creeper stalking us at a carnival.

Over the past decade or so, search engine security has evolved–no longer do we need to fear the inundation of pop-ups. Most of the larger search engines, like Google and Mozilla Firefox, tell us when they’ve protected us from random pop-ups or potential malware. We still need to remain discerning when a pop-up or two squeaks by our firewall and security system, but for the most part, we can rest easy–we’re safe from the erectile dysfunction ads or 1-900-PSYCHIC lines that used to flood our screens. Apple’s Safari hunts pop-ups, and erases any trace of their presence.

So how have pop-ups evolved since the dawn of the Internet?  When would you want to enable pop-up windows? How can you enable pop-ups on Safari? We answer all of these questions for you.

The history of pop-ups

What exactly are pop-ups? We’ve all seen them, but what’s their specific purpose? Essentially, pop-ups are an advertising tool to promote featured content and redirect users to sites where they can subscribe or make purchases. These ads are called pop-ups for obvious reasons–they appear as a window on your online screen. Pop-ups may show up as small boxes, full-screen advertisements, or sidebars.

The first pop-ups appeared online pre-SEO utilization. In fact, the advertising technique exploded in the 1990s. Although pop-ups were around when the World Wide Web began in 1991,1997 stands as the first time almost every website took advantage of their existence. The evolution of pop-ups has made them less intrusive–and sometimes useful for both marketers and consumers, but they’ll never leave our web browsing experience. According to tech expert Ethan Zuckerman, we have him to thank or curse for the infestation of pop-ups.

In an essay published by The Atlantic, Zuckerman apologized and explained why he and his team at (an early web hosting service) felt like pop-ups were an excellent marketing tool to thrust on unsuspecting users. He goes on to describe that even at the onset of the Internet, the largest amount of funding for websites came from advertising. Although Tripod tried to use other avenues to bring in profits and even attempted to become a subscription service, the company found that nothing worked as well as allowing advertisers to place their ads directly on the Tripod website.

Alas, Tripod investors jumped at Internet advertising, as it was a way to see their invested dollars at work. And the more Tripod advertised on the sites it hosted, the more apt the company was to see audience and web traffic growth. Zuckerman wrote the code to launch invasive pop-up ads, and Tripod started making money. Other web start-ups soon followed suit. These ads weren’t targeted, and had nothing to do with a user’s profile–the companies that paid for the advertising would abruptly scream on a user’s screen. It was nearly impossible to get rid of them without clicking on at least one.

Currently, web advertisers target their audience based on their search history and Internet profiles.The pop-ups are less invasive, and more sophisticated. Every web platform and every website collects some level of user data–it’s the price of using the Internet. However, in the dawn of pop-ups, advertisers competed to see who could show you the most ads. If the original pop-ups were desperate wannabe suitors, modern pop-ups are the suave smooth talkers, trying to tempt you with products they think you want.  

If you show interest and click on these ads, marketers build a profile specifically tailored to your interests. For example, if you look at a car dealership site, you may find ads for new cars begin to show up in your Google ads and social media pages. Most modern search engines, including Safari, protect their users from these ads with pop-up blockers. Users are alerted to the presence of blocked pop-ups, and will be asked if they want to allow the ads to appear instead.

The problem with pop-ups

Although pop-ups can provide you with important features on certain websites, they can still cause issues as well. It’s important to understand that even if you want to utilize this feature, pop-ups can still prove problematic. Some of the issues you may find with allowing pop-ups include: 

  • Clicking on links with malware
  • Unwanted downloads of “free” software
  • Subscribing to phishing links
  • Frozen or slowed down Wi-Fi
  • An overwhelming tsunami of ads hitting your computer screen

Why you may want to allow pop-ups

Alas, pop-ups can cause major headaches. If you’re utilizing the web for professional research or trying to look up information on your smartphone, pop-ups can disrupt your experience and slow down your browser. At times, blocking the Java-script run ads is vital.

Nonetheless, for all of the annoyance pop-ups can bring, they have benefits as well. Companies can truly tailor your web experience based on the ads you click open. For marketers, it’s a great lead generation tool and can attract website visitors and new customers. Some of the benefits of pop-ups for Internet users include:

  • Coupons and sales for products
  • Notice of events such as concerts, festivals, and family activities you may want to attend
  • A focus on local products and services you may need
  • Access to websites that won’t function properly if you block pop-ups
  • When used correctly, pop-ups can create a better experience for website visitors

At times, pop-ups can enhance a user’s experience, so why does Safari automatically block them?

Why Safari blocks pop-ups

Along with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari search engine ranks in the top three of search engines used by most web surfers. The engine is the default for Apple products including Macs and iPhones, but can be accessed by personal computer and Android users too. Apple cares about the privacy of its users, and puts measures in place to secure your personal data, including Private Relay. 

Private Relay disables all tracking devices from your Safari browsing activity. This is a great security measure, but by blocking every pop-up, Apple may keep you from experiencing full functionality when visiting certain websites. While you probably don’t want to permanently turn off Safari’s pop-up blocker, it’s important to know how to allow pop-ups on needed occasions.

How to allow pop-ups on Safari 

The good news is, if you want to enable pop-ups on Safari, the process is relatively simple. You’ll need to do so manually, but Safari spells out the steps for you. Unfortunately, the engine doesn’t give you the option to allow pop-ups per website–you have to allow them for all internet use, or block them entirely. You can do this each time you get online, and Safari’s built-in security measures will remain intact. In order to allow pop-ups on Safari, follow these steps:

  • Go to the Safari menu
  • Click on Preferences
  • Click the Security tab
  • Uncheck the “Block pop-up windows” option
  • Follow the same steps, but check “Block pop-up windows”
  • Ensure that the “Fraudulent Website Warning” remains on

However, if you find allowing pop-ups has cemented permanent ads to your website visits, these may be a result of adware that’s installed itself on your computer. Ensure that you have updated to the latest version of Safari, and if you’re using a Mac, restart your computer. The macOS will remove any malware or unwanted adware when you restart your computer. 

After you’ve allowed pop-ups, if you want to delete the websites that you’ve visited from your search history, Safari makes this process easy too. If you go to the Safari dropdown menu in the top right corner of your homepage, you’ll see a list of most recently visited websites. Check them all, and then hit “Clear Search History.” A prompted question will ask how far back you want to delete your history–starting with the last hour, and concluding with “All History.” Discern what works best for you, and then click on the best option.

When you choose your primary search engine, it’s important to know which experience best fits your needs. A site’s pop-ups can provide you with a full experience, while pop-up blockers may prevent you from accessing some websites. Pop-ups hold a prominent place in Internet history, and aren’t going away anytime soon. This advertising technique continues to evolve, and is less problematic today than it was even a decade ago. Safari allows you to tailor the protections in place when you surf the web and if you want to allow pop-ups, the process is quick and easy.

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