The Top 10 Most Annoying, Frustrating, Irritating, and Sinister Online Ads

Today's annoying online ads are a mix of Big Brother meets Madison Avenue, old-fashioned in-your-face marketing, and tactics that are downright mean. I rounded up a list of today's ten most annoying online ad categories. Many of them may have you longing for the days when the most pesky ads promoted an X-10 wireless camera.

Some of these ads flash, blink, vibrate, and somersault around your browser window. Others expand, pop open a window (even if you have a pop-up blocker), and play sounds or video. The most sinister don't appear to do anything at all and quietly attempt to hijack your PC.

What's behind this new breed of advertising? Naturally, money is greasing the wheels of online ad innovation. Consider eMarketer's forecast, which indicates that U.S. Internet companies are spending $21.4 billion in 2007 on online ads. That budget will grow--by 2011, an estimated $42 billion will go toward online ads, according to eMarketer.

However, as you grind your teeth trying to ignore a banner for Smiley Central riddled with talking emoticons, keep in mind that as irritating as Web ads are, they help keep Web content free. Without them, we'd all have to pay a nickel every time we wanted to watch a YouTube video of people riding down escalators in shopping carts.

Even so, "rich media advertising" can consume a lot of CPU cycles and tax your system--never mind your patience. Other forms of online advertising, such as column ads (those adjacent to content on a page), often interfere with surrounding content. When online advertising goes too far, sometimes you have to fight back with ad-blocking tools.

What's too much advertising? What's the just the right amount? That's for you to decide.

(For more information on tools, see our story "15 Downloads That Will Block Annoying Ads and Pop-Ups")

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