STOPZilla Bursts the Pop-Up Bubble
Stop popups dead in their tracks with this inexpensive but sanity-saving blocker.
If you were a homeowner and strangers walked through your front door
day and night, you'd be a bit perturbed. Maybe perturbed is too soft a
word, but using obscene language is not my style.
Popups are like those strangers. These browser windows that seem to come
out of nowhere are just as much an invasion of our privacy. They disrupt
our computing experience and gobble up our precious RAM with sleazy sales
pitches. Like spam, popups destroy what should be a wonderful computing
I lived with popups for too long, methodically shutting down window after
window—that I never opened in the first place! And if my best girl
used my computer, why there'd be a dozen come-ons I'd have to double-click
So I was mighty glad when STOPzilla gave me a call and asked me to review
their popup blocker. It didn't take but two seconds for me to start the
STOPzilla claims its edge is preventing the popups that arise out of
adware and spyware. Heck, I don't care where they come from, as long as
they go away.
Installation was a simple download (they're almost all simple these days,
especially the adware and spyware) and the keying in of a typically complex
and unmemorable license key (write it down somewhere!).
STOPzilla has three main user-interface elements. The intro screen pops
up (isn't that ironic) upon startup and also roars for some reason. I
actually find this sound as soothing as an old 9600 baud modem making
a connection. It sounds like something good is happening. It sounds like
Then there is a small window that shows the URLs of the blocked popups.
And everytime a popup is stopped, the computer makes a nice little noise—just
to remind you of all the annoyance you're missing. You can use this screen
to allow select URLs to make it through the blocker.
The main window is for configuration, and it's about as simple as a Playstation
game. You can set it to either allow or block. This way, if you are on
a site with lots of popups you actually want, they can be let through
I had one issue with dysfunctional Windows Media Player videos from MSNBC.com,
but it wasn't STOPzilla's fault. A simple video player upgrade solved
the problem. I did eventually run into problems with MSN radio, but that
is a small price to pay for no more popups.
Well, almost no more. In over two months, only three popups made it past
the STOPzilla barrier. Sweet.
STOPzilla claims its edge on its competitors is its ability to stop popups
that come from adware/spyware. (For a review of Google's toolbar, which
includes a pop-up blocker, click here;
or read the head-to-head review here.)
The company claims that some 80 percent of all popups derive from this
insidious software, which can come from downloading a simple weather-tracking
tool or file-sharing client. To test this theory, I downloaded AdAware
6.0 from Lavasoft and dispensed with 30 files related to spyware/adware.
For me, the main issue is usability. STOPzilla works, is easy to set
to allow all popups, or through the blacklist, to allow specific popups.
It is unobtrusive, and has made computing more joyous.
Running pop-up blockers is a great idea, but it's not enough. Your organization
should have clear guidelines about spyware. Users should not download
every new tool such as Kazaa or Weatherbug—many of them hide spyware.
And you should consider filtering software that weeds out these URLs.
And regularly going through workstations to remove spyware is a great
idea for any shop.
Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.