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It is common for me to visit a website and then be presented with a "pop-up" box.

This is not a true "pop-up," in the sense that it is not a new browser window that has been created without the approval of the user; it exists within the already open window. But, it is a nuisance like a traditional "pop-up," because it either prevents the user from clicking or scrolling anywhere outside the box or dims the background to such a point that the original webpage content is obscured.

While at times neither of these handicaps occur, the large box still dominates the screen, which is distracting.

Regardless of its nature, the user must perform some action to make the box disappear so that the user can view the unobscured page.

The box usually requests some personal information, particularly an email address or social media account. The user must either provide this information or exit out of the box to see the webpage in its entirety.

Sometimes the pop-up box is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It poses some patronizing question to the user, which merely serves as an "inviting" pretext to acquire the user's information. An example of this initial inquiry might be, "Are you a good person?"

If the user wants to exit out of the box, the user is forced to click on an even more patronizing answer (which is supposed to be "clever"), e.g., "No, I am not. I like murdering puppies and stepping on sandcastles."

I have never once entered my personal information in any of these unsolicited boxes, and the likelihood is low that I will ever want to do so.

My justification? Before I would want to hand my contact information to a random website, I must first trust the website and be interested in its content. Generally, this process takes me more than a few seconds, so I habitually exit out of the box without ever considering its request.

To be clear, I am not referring to the more oppressive form of pop-up box that might state an instruction along the lines of, "You must disable your ad-blocking extension before viewing this page." or, "Please disable Adblock to support us."


In case you are unfamiliar with the email-request pop-up that I've described, here is just one example (out of countless infringing websites):

https://www.wired.com/2017/03/fcc-graciously-sets-internet-providers-free-sell-data/

(It takes about 5 seconds for the email request pop-up to appear on this particular webpage.)

In this specific example, while the background is only slightly dimmed (instead of being very dimmed or blurred), the page completely "freezes" when the pop-up appears. The user cannot scroll or click anything outside of the box. To close the box, the user must click on the "x" in the top-right corner of the pop-up, or submit their information.

If you refresh the page or click on a different article on this site, the pop-up will not appear again. That is, pop-ups are automatically prevented if one already has a Wired.com cookie saved on their computer.


Now that I've articulated the problem, I am hoping that somebody has a solution that would, ideally, work universally across all or most websites.

I have tried downloading the Adblock, Adblock Plus, and uBlock Origin browser extensions and enabling every possible filter that is provided within these extensions. Still, I have found that these three extensions do not reliably inhibit the pop-up info-requests (which makes sense, as I don't believe that they are designed to).

My fear is that the manner in which these websites implement the pop-up request boxes is too generic or broad for any extension to reliably block these pop-ups (that is, without also disabling desirable or user-initiated pop-up boxes in the process).

My browser of choice is Google Chrome.

OS X El Capitan, version 10.11.6.

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OPTION 1 - Block it yourself

Go to a site, get a popup.

Click the AdBlock extension button on the toolbar, and select "Block an ad on this page"

Show it the ad, and it get the following window:

ad block

The id and name elements, while containing the text google_ads also contain data specific to this page. To make this blocking rule more general, I unticked those, leaving type and class, because IFRAMEs are hardly used any more, and one that is supposed to actively hide is pretty suspicious.

We'll see how that goes in the future. It should filter a few ads at least.

OPTION 2 - Edit your own rules

You can go into the AdBlock Customise tab, and manually edit your filters.

You'll see the ad we blocked in Option 1 (if you tried it) as:

www.wired.com##IFRAME[class="active hide-mob"]

We can make it more general using the google_ads text we saw earlier, and remove the limitation to Wired (note the * to make the text match less specific):

*##IFRAME[id*="google_ads"]

OPTION 3 - Let someone else block it

Click on the AdBlock button in your tool bar, and go to options. There is a list of filters currently applied. One that is not ticked by default is described as:

Fanboy's Annoyances (blocks in-page pop-ups, social media and related widgets, and other annoyances)

Try turning this on and see if it helps

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  • Regarding Option 1, this method does block the pop-up box itself from appearing, but, if you wait around 20 seconds, you'll see that it does not prevent the "freezing" effect of the pop-up. This is a poor fix, because this all but guarantees that it is physically impossible to stop the side effects of a pop-up. Regarding Option 2, this suffers from the same problem as Option 1. Regarding Option 3, the "Fanboy's Annoyances" filter does not reliably block email-request pop-ups (including the example that I provided in my post). – rubik's sphere Mar 2 '17 at 6:41
  • It's also very fragile - some sites will randomise the element ID so that even if you block it, it only works for a single session, and you'll have to repeat the exercise every time, because it has a new ID (which is more time-consuming than just clicking the X). This is on purpose. The only real way to handle this is to make flexible, generalised rules, or to block the offending domain entirely. – flith Feb 14 '18 at 8:50
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Having to do this on a site by site, element by element, is not really an answer to the original question, since the OP is using Wired.com as an example to reference the type of popup in question.

The Fanboy's Annoyances filter does not block newsletter subscription popups.

The real answer is that so long as you have Javascript enabled, there is no way to prevent these popups. Disabling Javascript works, but of course, that has other consequences that may render some website inoperable.

There is an extension for Chrome and Firefox called NoScript, which at least makes the toggling of Javascript a single-click action.

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I used to use uMatrix for this, then got tired when 75% of websites used to break. But now I discovered a nice addon, 'open in incognito mode' wherein I can seamlessly open the page in incog without uM enabled

Just tried out the wired page and another livestrong page and both were suppressed nicely.

Oh great, it broke this site too :)

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You can use "No, thanks." browser extension. It is not free, but also not expensive and it blocks a lot more than just newsletter pop-ups: https://www.no-thanks-extension.com/

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