Fall of the Banner Ad: The Monster That Swallowed the Web

If that is an exaggeration, it is only a slight one. The first banner ads — those long rectangular ads at the top of a web page — looked innocent enough; a half-dozen spots for a variety of large companies, including AT&T, Volvo and Zima, they made their debut on HotWired, the web offshoot of Wired Magazine, on Oct. 27, 1994. People who took part in their creation say the first banners were a resounding success, garnering adulation from readers and advertisers.

But their success birthed a monster that went on to swallow the web whole and has created two decades of havoc. “It’s almost like a prank that was played by the technology industry on the media industry 20 years ago,” said Chris Dixon, a technology investor at the firm Andreessen Horowitz who has long lamented the reach and permanence of the banner ad.

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