Internet advertising pioneer and patent holder of several internet technologies, including the pop-under ad; CEO of Ideaflood, Inc.; CEO of Utherverse Digital, Inc.What are you most proud of, with regards to your contributions to the internet?
“Back in 1995, I put up the first banner ads. I actually developed, with a NASA/JPL engineer who was working with me at the time, the very first script to be able to track advertisements placed on websites and to count clicks on those ads and take people to the correct website.
"In the course of my doing this, I got a huge amount, an unbelievable amount of hate mail and death threats, and all kinds of negative response from the educational community who felt that the internet and the web should be noncommercial, and that it was not for the general public, it was for professionals in the education field …
"Suddenly, websites had a mechanic by which they could generate revenue … immediately, once banners had a foothold, the web exploded. I go to bed at night often thinking about how that one innovation to the web has radically changed the world we live in.” What do you wish you could go back and change?
"It’s not so much as a regret as a sadness I have. When pop-unders became rampant, you would go to a website, and it would oftentimes crash your browser, because 50 pop-ups and pop-unders would launch when you tried to leave the website. And the advertiser was getting paid maybe half a penny for every pop-up they launched, so they would launch as many as they could launch until your browser crashed.
“It’s hard to overstate just how obnoxious and, I mean, there was a period where using the internet was like, oh, God, I’ve got to sit down, and I’m going to go to this one website that I trust that isn’t going to crash my machine, and if there’s a hyperlink I’m going to throw the dice.
“If I had received the patent in a timely fashion, I would have been able to prevent the abuse of pop-unders. I had no teeth, I couldn’t enforce it, because the patent hadn’t been issued. It was pending for 14 years! So by the time they issued it, pop-unders were no longer a problem. But the damage had already been done. And that was substantial damage that really crippled the web for a long time, and the impact is still with us today.” What do you think is one of the best moments in internet history?
“I remember the shock that I felt when I was first using a search engine, and that search engine being AltaVista, where I could type in a search term and within just a fraction of a second have results that were actually good results and relevant to my question.
“It was something I didn’t actually believe could happen. I think that was probably the moment when I realized everything was different. I no longer needed to have an encyclopedia to look things up. You could just have a database online of all the world’s knowledge at your fingertips.” What do you think is one of the low points in internet history?
“I don’t think you’re going to hear this from anyone but me, but the low point of the internet, and it is my firm belief that the stock crash that occurred in 2000 for the internet, and all of the problems and the setbacks that the web suffered, I lay the blame for all of that squarely on Visa.
“What we see now is that the business models and plans that were built and oftentimes underway in the late '90s were in fact valid business models and were in fact valued correctly. It should not have been considered a bubble.
“There was a very limited way to accept payments online in the '90s. Those payments were mostly from Visa and MasterCard. You didn’t have alternative methods for a person to pay for something. But Visa had no real ability to validate that the person using a credit card to buy something was in fact the owner of the card. This is before PINs, this is before the CV2s, this is before any real address verification.
“The dark side of this was, anybody, for any reason, could call up their bank and say, ‘I want my money back on that charge.’ And Visa would give them their money back. Now, the goods and services had already been delivered, at that point. But it became much more sinister. Visa would also fine the merchants.
“Companies were fined out of business. The entire economy crashed as a consequence of this.”