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What is a Popover?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A popover is an overlay which covers the material in a web browser without the need to create a new window. Popovers are also known as overlays. This programming trick is most commonly used for Internet advertising, although there are some other uses for popovers. One of the issues with the popover ad from the point of view of web users is that these ads usually cannot be blocked by ad blocking software, which means that the user is forced to see them. This is, of course, exactly why Internet advertisers like popovers.

The popover ad probably would not have been developed if people had not figured out how to block popup ads. Popup ads are ads which open in a new browser window, and they operate with a script, which means that software can be built to stop the script before it starts. In response to a lack of advertising exposure thanks to web users who used popup blockers and ad blocking software, the popover was devised.

In a classic example of a popover, a web user navigates to a page and an ad materializes over the material on the page. Sometimes the ad covers the whole page, and sometimes it only appears in one section. In either case, the ad may be closable with a button, or it may remain on the page until the user navigates away, or until the ad closes itself.

Self-closing popover ads are often used to play animated advertisements, forcing the user to sit through the ad before he or she can view the material on the page. Popover ads may also scroll across the page, allowing the user to navigate the page in a truncated fashion until he or she clicks the ad. Sometimes, the information on the popover ad is misleading; for example, a button marked “close” might actually open an ad in a new window.

One of the non-advertising uses of popovers is in sites which require paid subscriptions. In these cases, users can navigate to a page and get a glimpse of the content, but a popover hovers over the content, informing the user that he or she will need to pay for access. This tool can be used to attract search traffic, getting eyeballs on the page in the hopes that people will subscribe to the site. It also circumvents the “subscription only” tags which some search engines use to identify sites in a list of search results, since it allows users to land on a real page rather than a subscription paygate.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon994587 — On Feb 21, 2016

I would rather have the internet close down completely than see any advertising. The greedy websites and advertisers created this mess so now they can live with it. I rooted my android phone and tablet and installed AdAway to eliminate ads in apps, games, and browsing because they became so bad it made my tablet useless.

By anon970185 — On Sep 16, 2014

I find it amusing that searching for how to avoid the annoying popovers used on Wise Geek led me to this page, on Wise Geek, talking about popovers.

By ArtH — On Mar 08, 2014

I totally agree with 'betterment'. I despise advertising popover;, they are an interruption to what I want to see and some lawyer must argue they breach my human right to think freely and focus on what I want, not what somebody else wants me to see.

I will never buy anything that is advertised using popovers or any other annoying behavior. The world of advertising has sunk to low depths and we need to fight back to regain control over what we want, not what someone wants to force on us. Oh, and I also despise pop-over survey When I do fill one in, I put totally fictitious information down to get my own back. I suggest we all rebel and do the same. Maybe then will we be treated as fellow human beings, and not as cash cows or numbers.

By anon931831 — On Feb 10, 2014

This war started not because people hate ads, but because ads became obnoxious. The main fault is that ads slow the page load. It is OK if the ad server is slow, but using code that forced the page load to stop and wait on the ad is where they screwed up. People noticed that blocking those ads made the websites load a crapton faster, so they blocked them all.

Then came popups, which instead of being slow, caused music to play and similar annoyances -- blocked again.

Now these, known by the general public as "bleep" ads. Well, your day will come soon enough.

Want to see who is making good money on ads? Look at sites that require the ads to be embedded in the page and hosted locally. People don't block them because ta-dah! They are not annoying!

By KaBoom — On Sep 26, 2012

@sunnySkys - I actually don't think popover advertisements or popup windows are strictly necessary for advertising online. It's possible to put advertisements directly on a webpage, and I think that's most effective.

If you do your page layout properly and put the advertisements somewhere where people can see them, but they don't disrupt viewing the content, I think it will be more effective. After all, if the advertisements are things people viewing the page actually want, they will click them, regardless of where the ad is!

By sunnySkys — On Sep 25, 2012

I actually don't mind popovers that much, as long as I'm able to click somewhere and close the window. Since most people block popups now, companies have to find some way to get our attention while we're browsing, right?

By dautsun — On Sep 24, 2012

@betterment - I think most people hate advertising popovers. I especially despise the ones that play music and the ones you can't close until they're done doing whatever they're doing.

However, I have to think that they're at least a little bit effective as a way of advertising. After all, if they weren't effective, companies would probably stop paying for them, right?

I have to wonder who is actually clicking them though, because everyone I know hates them.

By betterment — On Sep 24, 2012

I hate advertising popovers. They are almost never for any product that I'm interested in, and they interrupt me while I'm trying to look at something I actually want to see online. I can't believe anyone thinks this is an effective advertising strategy. I would never purchase something or click on anything that came up in a popover!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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