Privacytools.io showcases web platforms, utilities and services that center on maintaining online user privacy. Anonymous browsing, decentralized social media, note-taking applications, even router firmware. There's a downloadable tool to help secure Windows 10, the "privacy nightmare" of operating systems.
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"Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say." – Edward Snowden
Newer browsers notify users when a login form will be sent over an insecure connection. But some websites are replacing password boxes with plain text inputs to avoid triggering the warning – and using a special font, where all the characters are circles, to fool their users.
Troy Hunt makes an example of ShopCambridge.ca:
And as you've probably guessed by now, that "font" is nothing other than a single disc per character designed to be a visual representation of the real disc you'd normally see when entering text into a proper password field. It needs to work in this order because otherwise the place holder would no longer say "Password" and you'd instead see 8 round discs representing the letters of the word. The bottom line is, once all this is tied together then there's the veneer of a password field but because it isn't a password field, there's no browser warnings! It's like magic! More specifically, it's a pseudo password field designed to fool the user and deny them of the browser's visual warning designed to protect their password.
The craft involved is such that it can't be explained by sheer laziness. It's a peculiar mix of paranoia, marginal competence and the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Hahahaha. Read the rest
Webflow's history of the web is a Bayeaux Tapestry of obsolete virtues and current vices, a superimposition of new and old bad things. It's a clever and very 2017 way to market a web design app that lets normal people keep making worthwhile mistakes on the web -- a gateway to free expression -- as it becomes increasingly technical and forbidding.
I'm startled by how comfortingly, reliably minimal the very early stuff was. Even the lurid GIF explosion in late 1990s! Simple technology made even a terrible mess accessible. Read the rest
Alexis Madrigal describes What Facebook Did to American Democracy and why it was so hard to see it coming. Foreign exploitation of Facebook's ad system in the 2016 election was just the end result of Facebook's filter bubbles and its wildly successful efforts to get media to fill them. tl;dr: the horse was already dead before Russia flogged it.
The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn’t just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of “dark ads.”
The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook.
Facebook's uncanny method is to trickle enough traffic to publishers so they chum it constantly with Facebookish content, but not so much that publishers can assimilate Facebook visitors into their own audience. Unfortunately for this clever and destructive arrangement, the new far-right sites represented such a cohesive emergent affinity group that Facebook's machinery was co-opted.
It's said (usually on Twitter) that no-one is better than Nazis at exploiting a libertarian dropout's ideological impostures. This sort of thing usually strikes me as pompous and vague, but Facebook so perfectly embodies it I'm going to need two leftist energy bars for breakfast this morning. Read the rest
Our friends at The Webby Awards have announced this year's recipients! The Webby Awards, now in its 21st year, celebrates well-known big sites and also fantastic indie operations I've never heard of before but can't wait to explore. Congratulations to our friends Adam Savage, Internet Archive, and all of the other winners and nominees! Webby Awards 2017 winners Read the rest
CelebrityNetWorth.com was a popular, data-driven website whose 12 staffers led serious efforts to research public figures and give a credible estimate of their fortunes. Google liked the look of this, so it made site founder Brian Warner a proposition: let Google include the Big Number as a featured "snippet" atop relevant search results, in return for the snippet linking to the website.
Warner, though, knew that the link offer was worthless and said no. Mysteriously, Google started "answering" questions about celebrities' net worth anyway, only occasionally disclosing the source; he seeded his database with a few fake celebrities to prove Google was using CelebrityNetWorth.com's data. The result was just as he predicted when he said no: his site's lost most of its traffic, even as Google depends on it to provide accurate answers.
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Google’s push into direct answers has wide-reaching consequences for more than just small business owners who depend on search traffic. The email Google sent Warner in 2014 gives some insight into how Google selects reputable sources. Google wouldn’t answer questions about this, but based on the emails, the vetting was pretty thin; Google seemed more interested in whether the data was machine-readable than whether it was accurate. And the bar for featured snippets — the answers culled algorithmically from the web — is even lower, since it appears that any site good enough to rank in search results is good enough to serve as the source for Google’s canonical answers. That’s how you get erroneous answers that claim Barack Obama is organizing a coup, or that the Earth is flat, or that women are evil...
In a brand new series for the Webby Awards where I'm editor-at-large, I commissioned the talented comic artist Andy Warner to illustrate the wild history of the Web, from inspiring eureka moments to crackpot ideas that changed the world to fantastic failures.
The first comic in the series is: "Twitter's First Chirps"!
And for more of Andy's work, I highly recommend his absolutely wonderful book just out this week, Brief Histories of Everyday Objects, the illustrated stories behind life’s most common and underappreciated items. Read the rest
This image depicts the most commonly-found stylesheet colors on the web's top sites—Paul Hebert did an amazing amount of analysis and this is just one of the intriguing visualizations he came up with.
Most of these are obvious staples, especially HTML red and blue, though it's interesting how far the blue "cluster" is from the default blue hue, whereas the red cluster merely modifies the saturation and lightness. This might be influenced by various "studies" of the most effective link color.
The odd thing is the popularity of #d2b48c (triggered by the "Tan" HTML color name), which appears to be the single most popular nonblack color after #0000FF (HTML Blue) and #FF0000 (HTML Red). Google uses it somewhere (though I don't see it) Is everyone just following the leader? (UPDATE: see below)
UPDATE: Hebert explains the Tan thing in the comments.
Castles is a fascinating web toy by Nico Disseldorp. Left-click to add a castle to the outside of your castle—and watch as every part of the castle, including the added part, changes to reflect the form of the new whole. Right click to spin it around so you don't go mad. He's made other mind-melting recursion toys too. Read the rest
Pascal Deville loves "beautiful atrocities"—websites that could be described as intentionally brutalist were they not mostly just ugh. Fast Company interviewed him on his love of rough design, strangely compelling as it is in the age of bloated, broken, but very pretty websites.
"I wouldn't call it a protest but a shout-out for more humanity in today's web design," Deville says. He views his site as a bastion for a segment of Internet culture of people who built scrappy websites themselves as opposed to using services with pre-canned templates like Squarespace. "Terms like UX and user friendly don't have a lot of soul or guts and treat everything like a product. They also killed a lot of the web culture, which seems to find a voice on Brutalistwebsites.com."
More from The Washington Post.
Intriguingly, Deville has found in his Q&As with coders and designers that few set out to mimic this newly popular aesthetic; instead, they all arrived at the same point out of a drive to create something original.
“[Brutalism] is interesting to me … because it doesn’t necessarily have a defined set of aesthetic signifiers,” said Jake Tobin, the designer behind trulybald.com. “What defines those signifiers is decided by the platform it’s built on.”