SAN FRANCISCO (07/10/2000) - You may soon surf an ad just like you now surf the Web. That's the hope of a company called Spidertop Inc., which is introducing a StickyAds technology aimed at turning banner ads into minibrowsers.
Spidertop's site demonstrates the technology with an EBay Inc. ad. At first glance, it looks just like another banner ad for EBay. But you can select a category (Antiques & Art, Sports, and so on) from a drop-down list, click a Go button, and see a revolving selection of products for sale. If you see one you like, click another button to make a bid. (This particular ad is just for demonstration purposes; the bids aren't real.)Want to keep an eye on the auction? Put it on your desktop. A Clip button moves the banner into its own, separate window, with an option to save it as a shortcut on your desktop.
Spend a little time in this "auction," however, and the limitations of the banner size become obvious. The interface doesn't let you browse or search for items as you would on the real EBay site, giving you slim chances of finding anything you really want.
Will StickyAds Stick to You?
A lot of people worry about Web advertising, fearing that it has turned into yet another way for companies to spy on them. Will StickyAds make this worse?
The potential is there, although the damage is slight. Advertisers will be able to track where you go within the banner--an option that doesn't exist with today's less interactive banners. But moving through an ad is like moving through a Web site: You choose to do it, and you know that you can be tracked as you go. In fact, it's a safe bet that any advertiser that will track your visit to their banner is already tracking your visits to their site.
What about the sneakier practice of tracking your movements throughout the Web?
Many ads do this through cookies they place on your computer. The StickyAd technology does not, in itself, offer this capability, although it works with other technologies that do. In this area, a StickyAd will be no better or worse than a conventional banner.
You won't see a StickyAd unless advertisers adopt the technology. And that depends at least partly on whether they find it easy to work with. Creating a StickyAd requires working in a new XML-based programming language developed by Spidertop. Currently Spidertop itself is offering developer services. The company hopes to release a development tool before the end of the year.