Pop-up purveyor D Squared wins reprieve

Judge refuses to extend a preliminary injunction against a company that stands accused of exploiting a security flaw to market pop-up blocking software.

Evan Hansen Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Department Editor Evan Hansen runs the Media section at CNET News.com. Before joining CNET he reported on business, technology and the law at American Lawyer Media.
Evan Hansen
2 min read
Pop-up advertising purveyor D Squared Solutions won a temporary reprieve Monday, when a federal judge refused to extend a preliminary injunction against the tiny company that barred it from advertising its service through a security flaw in Microsoft's Windows operating system.

D Squared, based in San Diego, sells software that helps people block pop-up advertisements while they're surfing the Web. To promote the software, the company took advantage of a loophole in Windows Messenger service to deliver ads as often as every 10 minutes to some PC users. The Windows feature (not to be confused with Microsoft's instant-messaging service) is designed to let network administrators notify users about critical maintenance--for example, when servers are about to go down.

The Federal Trade Commission sued D Squared in federal court in Maryland, and last month won a preliminary injunction preventing it from sending the ads. D Squared fought back, effectively overturning the injunction Monday in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis, according to an online federal database that tracks court proceedings.

The decision means D Squared can resume sending ads through the notification system pending a trial on the matter, scheduled for early next year. It was unclear what impact the ruling would have on end users, however, as the issue has already led Microsoft and others to take steps to prevent the Messenger feature from being used this way.

Microsoft recently alerted customers to the Windows Messenger security hole, and AOL has made technical changes to its Internet service to stop the flaw from affecting its subscribers.

Pop-up advertising is considered to be among the most effective formats for online advertisers, scoring higher response rates than banner ads. But Web surfers also consider pop-ups among the most annoying online marketing techniques.

A growing backlash against pop-ups could make the format less popular among ad buyers, as software makers and Internet service providers increasingly add pop-up blocking features to Web browsers and plug-ins. Microsoft next year plans to add a pop-up blocker to its all-but-omnipresent Internet Explorer browser, leading some ad experts to sound a death knell for the format.