Sensationalist reporting on

People have been making headlines out of the new ping attribute implemented in Firefox Trunk which I wrote about a week ago. Slashdot calls it spyware and says:

The Mozilla Team has quietly enabled a new feature in Firefox that parses ‘ping‘ attributes to anchor tags in HTML. Now links can have a ‘ping’ attribute that contains a list of servers to notify when you click on a link. Although link tracking has been done using redirects and Javascript, this new "feature" allows notification of an unlimited and uncontrollable number of servers for every click, and it is not noticeable without examining the source code for a link before clicking it.

Calling it spyware is a bit over the top but it sure makes a good headline.

Digg writes "New Surveillance Tool Silently Enabled in Firefox":

The Mozilla Team has silently turned on a new feature in Forefox called "<a ping>" that will allow Web site operators to silently conduct surveillance on Firefox users’ browsing activity. This new "feature" will cause Firefox to notify any server, or a whole list of servers, when you click a link. 

AJAX is worse for privacy

An "web 2.0" application using XmlHttpRequest/AJAX can phone home with details of what you have written in forms or parts of your password before you’ve even finished typing it in. If you type in half of your Amazon password on another site before realizing your mistake it could already be too late. What you typed in could have already been sent home using AJAX.

People are already doing it

It is common practice for websites to link to external websites through a redirection URL. For example, most adverts you see will not link directly to the advertiser’s website but through a page on Google’s website or whoever sells the advert space.

This has several problems:

  • It slows down the user because they have to wait for Google’s page to load up before they can reach their destination page.
  • Websites use all kinds of ugly hacks – Javascript, Images to track which links visitors are clicking on but to hide the fact from the user.

HTML 5’s a ping attribute gives web developers another way – a way to clean up their code, a way for user agents to expose the fact that they other websites will be notified. Web Developers can finally be up front about the fact they track clicks and it speeds up and improves experience on the web.

Silently Enabled?

All this FUD about silently enabling <a ping> is rubbish. It was discussed publicly on Bugzilla and anyone who reads The Burning Edge will have seen the new feature announced.

Secondly, how on earth does an article which misspells Firefox get on the front page of Digg? 

Prototype.js CSS selector function

Ajaxian reports on Prototype’s new CSS selector function. This is similar to Dean Edwards’ CSS Query.

With this new feature, you could do the following:

$$('div#page p.summary img').each(Element.hide);

This will find all DOM elements which matches the CSS selector div#page p.summary img and will hide them all.

Very nice feature; should save a lot of time and make Javascript much less painful.

Web 108.0

Jeffrey Zeldman criticises Web 2.0 today at A List Apart and rightfully and proposes we cut out the middle man and go straight to Web 3.0 🙂 Philipp at Google Blogoscoped suggests we should hop to Web 4.0.

There is a nice table which shows the popularity of different versions of the web on Google. Web 5.0 seems to be more popular than Web 4.0 by a long margin. 

People also seem more interested in revolution and new features rather than bug fixes; Web 3.0 is a lot more popular than Web 2.0.1. Around 206 times more popular to be exact.

It seems like Web 1.0.1 never existed; people decided to go straight to Web 2.0. According to my so-Web 2.0 Google Calculator, Web 2.0 is 27,879 times more popular than Web 1.0.1.

Web 3.0 is already more popular than Web 1.1.

Some people have already begun to hype up Web 10.0 and Web 104.0 has already been invented. But no one has invented Web 108.0 yet so I just invented it.

I doubt I’ll be getting any royalties on the term soon though since Google will have renamed the term long before we reach 108.0.

GPL Version 3 Draft

The version 3 draft of the GPL is available here. Makes some nice bedtime reading. This license will probably be of interest to anyone who releases software under the GPL or uses GPL software.

It’ll be interesting to see reaction, commentary and summaries on the new license over the next few days. 

Windows Live Messenger: Music Mix

Awesome. Windows Live Messenger contains a feature called "Music Mix" which basically allows you and a friend to simultaneously listen to a piece of music together. You have a shared playlist where you can both add songs onto. When you add a song, the song is automatically transferred to your contact in the background. (Microsoft encouraging illegal trading of music?)

If you seek through the song, rewind, etc. It’ll also update on your contact’s playlist. 

You can start Music Mix by clicking on Activities and then selecting "Music Mix". Be careful though; you could well be listening to Postman Pat or Hilary Duff against your will.

On the topic of Windows Live Messenger: I’m gradually getting used to it and it’s not all that bad. I have 2 invites available. Add a request here.

Opera claims 100,000,000 downloads

Opera is claiming they have had 100,000,000 downloads. Somehow I doubt this as Firefox has had 134 million downloads and a much bigger user base. Opera also has no where near the same amount of publicity through blogs, extensions and other websites.

This figure count is probably boosted by including upgrades and previous versions which Firefox does not count. If they are counting since 1998, this figure wouldn’t be surprising. But it does show how popular Firefox really is – in a year it gets the same amount of downloads which it took Opera 8 years to get.

Gotta love the folks who also claim that Opera is in fact the second most popular browser and that the only reason Internet Explorer has such a big browser share is because of it’s UA.

Navibar

Navibar is a very interesting Firefox extension. When you have it installed, Navibar will automatically check every site you visit for a sitemap.rdf file (In fact it was the requests for sitemap.rdf in my server logs which pointed me towards this extension). If it finds a sitemap.rdf file, it will display a structure of the site in the sidebar like this.

A RDF format is used to publish sitemaps or an XML format based on Google Sitemaps. The fact that barely any sites publish sitemaps and a standard Google Sitemap is useless to this extension (for a start, there is no standard location for a Google Sitemap) severely limits the usefulness of this extension.

Even then, a navigation sidebar doesn’t really make it that much easier to navigate the site. It’s great because it stays out of the way and you can configure the extension to automatically show the sidebar when it finds a sitemap and hide it when it can’t find a sitemap.

If you use Firefox on an internal intranet Navibar can be great. 

Microsoft Word Challenge

It’s time to get out that mal logiciel de propriété industrielle and see if you can work out how to do this.

It’s possible to select half of a letter in Microsoft Word. The following image has not been altered:

 

Leave a note if you’ve worked out how to do it. You can’t do cool things like that in OpenOffice.