This is rich

To enormous indifference, the so-called Interactive Advertising Bureau burned up the airwaves in August by introducing its so-called Rich Media Guidelines. The attempt is made to legitimize the practice of shoving enormous multimedia advertisements into your browser, “content” that no one actually wants.

We tire mightily of the urge to advertise. It’s a racket that, at its most benign, keeps sites that traffic in other people’s work, like Hissyfit, afloat. At worst, it inculcates a form of madness that even infests mailing lists, which cost essentially nothing to distribute but are deemed fair ground for advertising. Our fave example is of course the I-Advertising mailing list on the topic, surprisingly enough, of Internet advertising, which itself carries advertising. (“Please support our sponsors.... They keep this resource free!” Who said it had to cost?)

The so-called Guidelines define rich media banners as “Standard banners (468×60 pixels) which use rich media technologies such as HTML, Flash and Java.” Wow – the NUblog is now officially RICH MEDIA, and we’re not even charging you for it! What is wrong with us?

The Guidelines make a laughable effort at acknowledging browser compatibility:

Ads should be tested for stability in a variety of browser and platform combinations.... Stability is defined as not causing error messages, dialog windows, browser crashes or system crashes.... Web sites and networks should individually determine detailed testing matrices relevant to their specific users. These matrices should be publicly available and updated regularly.... Vendors should publish detailed matrices indicating the browser and platform combinations in which their technologies are stable.

Yes, very nice. “Vendors” are encouraged to test, and to tell us what works, while still force-feeding megabytes of unwanted distraction even to browsers that can’t hack it. Nice.

Stability, moreover, is defined as anything that does not perturb the equipment. Doing the same to the viewer is fair game. This is advertising, after all.

The guidelines countenance a programming technique only a single small step removed from the porn-site habit of spawning unlimited unwanted windows: While audio and video may play only when requested by the viewer, ads may enlarge themselves if you so much as pass the mouse over them. Quickie question here: Have you ever passed your mouse over a banner ad?

Another word to the wise to “i-advertising” apologists: If you have any intent whatsoever to certify your Web site as meeting any Web Content Accessibility Guideline, the use of Internet Advertising Bureau–approved rich-media advertising will invalidate your efforts. Even with alt texts and other equivalents, features that are not merely permitted but encouraged (like pop-up windows and video and audio presentations that can be turned off only with a mouse click) violate relevant guidelines in and of themselves. Heck, flashing-moving-shaking-disco-dancing rich-media ads themselves are an ineluctible violation on multiple grounds.

Like we said: Nice.

Posted on 2001-10-03