It’s safe to say that most of us in the online world these days have our fair share of pet peeves when it comes to the Internet. Things like pop-ups, malware, trolls, memes, and the list goes on. Oh yeah, and ads.
It’s because of these annoyances, as well as risks involving malware delivered via major ad networks, that I use an ad blocker on my Linux Mint box; I don’t currently have an ad blocker running on my Android 11 phone. In this, the premiere of my TTINPO (Top Ten, In No Particular Order) series of posts, I’m listing ten Internet traits that have long ticked me off. Here goes:
- Exit Pop-Ups
One of my biggest peeves – the dreaded, desperate “exit intent” pop-up when your cursor goes off of the page of a website. Said pop-up is usually begging for you to join a mailing list. If I suspect the site will hit me with an exit pop-up, I’ll just move my cursor up and down the entire screen, top to bottom, and if a pop-up comes up, I’ll close it asap and try to keep browsing the page. Unless I’m then slammed with…
About as annoying as exit pop-ups, slide-outs most often appear toward the end of a web page, usually a blog or newspaper/magazine article, and the slide-out typically promotes some other article(s) on the site. Like the exit pop-ups, if I suspect an imminent slide-out, I’ll hit the End key on my keyboard, and if I don’t get a slide-out, I hit Home.
- Hacked/infected WordPress sites polluting search results
- The same handful of sites/topics leading my search results
Let’s see… unless I use a whole string of “minus words” and put certain keywords in quotation marks, I get roughly the same sites among the first 25 or so results. So far, the “usual suspects” list consists of Amazon, eBay, Quora, Walmart, Pinterest, at least one site from the Narcity group, and at least one COVID-related page or article that has nothing to do with what I’m looking for. I’ve also noticed that many image searches as of late have been polluted by potentially malicious Canadian sites devoted to cannabis and CBD products, and when those results appear, the thumbnail in the search result is usually a horizontally-flipped image.
- Sites promoting or mentioning geoblocked video and/or audio content
This happens all the time on YouTube, and as a Canadian user of the platform, it’s very frustrating to be teased/tantalized this way. The site shows thumbnails and links to various videos, including YouTube’s “Recommended” videos, but when I click into one, it won’t play – it’s geoblocked here, for one reason or another, usually rights, licensing, maybe union stuff (e.g. SAG, AFTRA). Is there any way to tell, outside of the YouTube environment itself, where a geoblocked video *can* be viewed without needing a VPN etc.? I do see that geoblocked videos in playlists are sometimes indicated as such, but YouTube shouldn’t even be offering mentions of, or links to, videos that are geoblocked in the user’s location – Spotify is able to completely hide geoblocked songs etc. where necessary, so why can’t YouTube? For example, everything from the BBC’s main YouTube channel, including that channel’s main page, is geoblocked outside the U.K., but there’s a (mostly) legit reason for it – “the Beeb” is funded primarily by revenue from Britain’s television licence program.
Speaking of YouTube…
- Unrelated (and possibly paid-placement) “related” videos on YouTube
Like the hacked WordPress site pollution over on Google, the “related” video lists, in the right-hand sidebar while watching a video, are very polluted with videos that are often not even close to “related”. Check out this screen grab of a video I pulled up yesterday afternoon, one that I had favourited as it talks about the print work of my late grandfather, John T. “Jack” MacMurchy, former publisher of the Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin newspaper.
Look at the first three “related” videos, underneath my very diverse favourites playlist – absolutely nowhere near “related” to the Collingwood District Historical Society or my grandfather. I see three videos, all from American creators – a school board, the ABC affiliate in Atlanta (WSB-TV ch. 2), and Saturday Night Live, the long-running NBC show. The “Proud As A Peacock” network is especially bad for showing up prominently in “related” videos, regardless of what you’re watching or looking for – it’s not uncommon for me to see some nonsense from SNL, “The Tonight Show”, or “Late Night”. It’s got me wondering if NBC/Comcast has some kind of undisclosed paid placement deal with Google to heavily promote those late evening shows no matter what a YouTuber might be looking for or watching, because I guarantee you, never have I ever watched any videos from NBC’s YouTube channel or those of any NBC shows. None of that crap in my viewing history, and these placements are the one and only reason why I will not ever watch any Fallon or Meyers material.
- Big, long “stories” and other irrelevant garbage on recipe sites
Foodies such as myself absolutely hate these, but the people who write and publish these things do this for three valid reasons:
a) Copyright – although the recipes themselves cannot be copyrighted, everything else on the page, such as the publisher’s huge back story regarding the recipe, can.
b) Search engines – Google, for example, is said to not index pages containing fewer than about 1000 words, so the recipe page needs to be padded with all kinds of boring fluff.
c) Ads – if the publisher can stretch the recipe’s page to the max, such as with very detailed instructions, video etc. for each prep step, that potentially gives them more ad space.
At one point, before I quit Facebook, I was saving and printing numerous recipes that my wife had shared on her timeline. The fluff on the recipes’ pages was getting so irritating that I broke down and installed the Recipe Filter extension for Firefox – goodbye stories, hello clean recipe!
- Cover-your-arse “information centres” on social media
The big guys pretty much *had* to roll these out on their platforms, in response to the 45th POTUS and other people spreading misinformation, intentionally or otherwise, about the pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election, but in so many instances, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok etc. were, in my opinion, a little too aggressive in attaching their cover-your-arse “information centre” plugs to just about any post that made any mention of COVID and/or the election candidates. Even something as potentially harmless and non-misinforming as a teen’s “Covid cut” (haircut) or “Quarantine cuisine” video on TikTok or YouTube would be automatically flagged with a cover-your-arse “information centre” plug and, here in Canada, a link to the federal government’s official COVID website.
- Borderline clickbait headlines
To me, if you’ve published a page with a headline that starts with a number and/or one or more of the words listed below, chances are I’m not gonna click into it – you’re obviously trying to lure users and/or SEO your way up people’s search results. Those words are:
-any of the five W’s (who, what, where, when, why)
In my opinion, starting your headlines with any of those words is an act of “borderline clickbait”, and if you’re part of a mainstream media organization, such as a newspaper, radio station or TV channel, borderline clickbait should not ever exist on your site(s) or your social media presence. Just like the classic features of clickbait headlines, such as “you won’t believe”, “[number] will shock you”, “what happens next will…”, etc. etc.
And to complete the bookending of this list…
- Mobile exit pop-ups
I’ve only really noticed these in the past year or so, while using Chrome in Android 11 on my Google Pixel 2 XL. Just like the desktop exit pop-ups and just as annoying, except they come up when you hit your phone’s Back button.
Out of the above annoyances that I can control as a website admin (1, 2, 3, 9 and 10), I will not implement any of them, or knowingly allow them to be on my site or deep in my WordPress installation. On my Apache 2.4 server and in WordPress, I have significantly beefed up security to the best of my knowledge and ability, even going so far as to blacklist IP address ranges for entire countries! Multiple reports indicate that one country alone, possibly with an accomplice relying on that country’s Internet infrastructure, is responsible for nearly half of all attempted and successful hacks/attacks/etc. Because my website consists entirely of English-language content, with some occasional Canadian French material possibly forthcoming, I don’t really have any reason to allow people (or bots/botnets) using some non-anglo countries’ connections/IP addresses to access my site.
On the Web in general, what bugs you? Sign in with your BMacBroadcast.ca account and leave a comment below!