Click Here: The Short, Inglorious History of Online Advertising

The short, inglorious history of online advertising.


Pay-per-click keyword advertising debuts at (later Overture, and now a part of Yahoo). It is widely mocked.


HotWired is the first site to sell banner ads in large quantities to corporate advertisers. The first buyers? AT&T and Zima. Click-through rates, the gauge of success, are an astonishing 30%.


Google rolls out AdWords, a pay-per-click service. AdWords made performance-based ads mainstream and now accounts for more than 95% of Google's revenue ($21 billion in 2008).


Pop-up (and pop-under) ads fill users' screens. They peak in 2003, at 8.7% of all online ads. Although initially effective, earning 13 times more clicks than banners, pop-up blockers end the annoyance almost as quickly as it began.


Video ads bring in $121 million — just over 1% of online ad revenue. Today, they're still a small slice of the overall market as YouTube, Hulu, and others experiment with formulas, but video-ad revenue jumped to $500 million in 2008.


Facebook debuts its advertising system, including Beacon, which raised members' hackles for being an opt-in program by default. A month later, CEO Mark Zuckerberg allows users to turn off Beacon — and they do just that.


Companies such as Lotame begin to experiment with engagement as the new ad unit on social networks. The goal? Attract more than the $2.35 billion that companies are expected to spend on social-network advertising this year.

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  • Bastien Beauchamp

    Nice review!
    I believe although that the information from 1998 could be improved. Significant activities were happening during that year. DoubleClick was already up and running well. Their average clickthrough rate was about 10%. They had a page on How to improve your banner ads.