A pop-up is an element of a webpage that appears as either an overlay over the main content of the page, or in a new browser window.
When you're using a browser on the web there are three types of pop-ups you will encounter:
- Pop-Up Ads
- Modal Windows
- Context Menus
Pop-up ads are popular with a few webmasters, and virtually no web users. Pop-up ads are ads that appear in a new browser window when you access a specific website. Pop-up ads may be generated by the website you are visiting, or they may be created by adware that has been either intentionally or maliciously installed on you computer.
Pop-up ads were common in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but have since fallen out of favor, and there are many browsers and browser plugins that will block most pop-up ads.
Modal windows are a type of pop-up that appears within the same browser window as the website you are visiting, and must be interacted with before you can continue viewing the website. Some modal windows are used to deliver website functionality, such as those used to provide a larger view of a selected image – a feature referred to as a Lightbox. In many cases, modal windows are used to encourage a website visitor to sign up for an email newsletter, or to play a video ad.
Context menus appear over any element of a webpage when you right-click on a PC, or hold down “Ctrl” and click on a Mac. Context menus provide a list of menu options that are unique to the context in which the menu appears. For example, depending on the browser you are using, a context menu associated with a link on a website might offer the following options:
- Open the link in the current window.
- Open the link in a new browser tab.
- Open the link in a new browser window.
- Open the link in an incognito or private window.
- Save the link.
- Copy the link address.
As you can see, all of these options are applicable to the context in which the menu appears – thus the name “Context Menu”.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do websites use pop-ups for advertising?
Website that do not sell a specific product or service have to be supported in some other way. The most common business model for websites that don't explicitly sell anything is to be “ad-supported”. There are a variety of ways ads can be used to support a website, and this is a topic we've written on elsewhere. At one time, pop-up ads were a very popular way to display advertising. However, they have fallen out of favor and are not as common as they once were. Modal windows are still quite popular, both to deliver website functionality, and to deliver ads.
The bottom line is that webmasters who run ad-supported sites want the ads to be as effective as possible without unduly irritating website visitors, and are constantly tweaking how ads are delivered toward that end.