Pity the soul who comes across a Web site run by Brett Wright. His pages are like ocean riptides, pulling Internet surfers under and whisking them against their will to resurface elsewhere.
Three of Wright's Web sites use a high-tech, behind-the-scenes method to route visitors automatically to other commercial sites, which pay Wright for such "referrals."When puzzled surfers try to close those browser windows - for sites they never even intended to visit - other browser windows open automatically. And those can spawn still more browser windows.
It can be a nearly endless, frustrating cycle to regain control of the computer.
"You fell into my trap," says Wright, who lives near Atlanta. "It bounces you all over the place, doesn't it?"
Wright's technique is becoming common among sexually oriented sites like the ones he operates, which boast 250,000 visits daily. But the online porn industry is renowned for its innovation, first to use the Web's newest tools and techniques - from live video to payment schemes - that months or years later become mainstream for the rest of the Internet.
So will mainstream Web sites hunting bigger audiences and elusive profits soon lure visitors into this loop?
Critics say the notion of even briefly kidnapping visitors is antithetical to the Internet, where the allure is the ability to jump among sites without regard for boundaries, physical distance or software compatibility. On the Web, ideally, you just click and go.
"Once you put someone on a path where they can't get out, the natural inclination is to quit," says Jonah Seiger of Washington-based Mindshare Internet Campaigns.
Wright acknowledges the practice outrages some visitors - especially those with less powerful computers that crash if too many windows are open.
Some experts doubt the technique ever will be embraced by mainstream sites, such as the most popular online bookstore.
"You won't see Amazon.Com use that. People wouldn't tolerate it," says Michael Willis, who co-wrote a book about the worst Internet sites.
"It's almost like if you went through the doors of a Wal-Mart store to buy some pants and walked into a 7-Eleven," Willis says. "You want pants, not a Slurpee. It would create ill will for both parties."
Donna Hoffman of Vanderbilt University, an expert on Internet businesses, agrees it is hard to imagine the model working on more traditional sites. "People don't want to be sent places," she says. "They want to choose where to go."
A particular concern is children. A young intern at the National Institute on Media and the Family, a nonprofit group that rates video games, searched the Web for a research project using the keywords "teen" and "games." She stumbled instead onto a porn site and could not back out - each time she closed a browser window, two more opened automatically.
"Being an intern in her first week, she was concerned that her internship might come to a quick stop," recalls David Walsh, the group's executive director and the intern's boss. "People who kind of wander into those sites find themselves unable to get out."