Firm Debuts Software That Blocks Banner Ads

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Solid Oak Software Inc. recently unveiled filtering software that could cause concern among Internet advertisers.


According to the company, users of the CYBERsitter 97 software can block 70 percent to 80 percent of Web-page banner ads from downloading onto their screens. CYBERsitter software originally was developed to help parents block offensive sexual and hateful material from their children's computers.


Marc Kanter, vice president of marketing at Solid Oak, Santa Barbara, CA, said the banner-blocking feature was added to CYBERsitter 97 in response to customer requests.


"Our philosophy is that customers should have a choice -- and time and time again, we get complaints about the speed degradation caused by banners that are heavy in graphics," he said. "We're not against Web advertising, we just think you should have an alternative."


The software costs $49.95. As for whether Web-site owners dependent on banner-ad dollars should be concerned, Kanter said, "If Web publishers are solely going to base their revenue stream on advertising dollars from banner ads, it could conceivably cause a problem, but I don't think the masses are going to purchase this. As the speed of the Web increases, [slow-downloads caused by heavy banners] will become less of an issue."


Robert L. Smith, Jr., president of shop.org, Silver Spring, MD, a trade association of 40 merchants selling online, including Eddie Bauer and 1-800-FLOWERS, said banner blocking is a trend worth watching.


"I can see this taking off in the active segment of the Internet community," he said, adding that if banner blocking becomes popular, Web publishers may have to rethink their business models. "I donate to public broadcasting because I love what they do, but if you want to have access to content, somebody's got to pay."
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