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Hot on the Web

The readers strike back

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on April 11, 2003
(Issue 2115, Audio and Video)

You write a column, you get mail – most of which makes more sense than the column, frankly.

The Rev. Clyde Shideler, a disabled-rights activist in San Diego County, wrote in asking how activists can encourage more Web designers to make their sites accessible to the disabled.

While federal agencies are required by law to include ways of allowing the visually impaired to browse their sites, the disabled depend on the basic decency of the rest of us with pages to do so.

Whether the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the web has not yet been decided by the courts; but even if it does, it will only apply to any site considered a place of public accommodation – and only to commercial sites at that. Considering that the vast majority of the Web consists of pages developed by individuals, the goal of disabled access is clearly one best addressed by public awareness campaigns, not lawsuits.

Now, I'm not going to cast stones here because I've not got all my pages disabled-accessible yet – many of them were originally designed when I barely knew what I was doing, and it takes time that a single dad doesn't always have to go back and re-do them.

However, you can go to World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative page at to learn how to make your pages disabled-accessible. It's all basic stuff (alt tags for the most part to provide a text description of graphical elements) that if included in your original site design and page templates adds little to no additional work to your project.

Pass the salt

I heard from another reader after I wrote in my March 7 column ("Back to the browser wars?") that, "Netscape suggested that for-profit businesses pay for the browsers they installed on their employees' computers, but if Netscape got paid for even 10,000 out of the tens of millions of installed copies, Ill eat a floppy disk."

This reader, who wanted to remain anonymous, wrote that he worked at Netscape in the mid-'90s, suggested I might want to get ready to start nibbling.

"I am a ex-Netscape employee and can confirm that Netscape sold millions of seats of Netscape Communicator and made millions of dollars from for-profit companies (GM, Citibank, Ford, Lucent, Cisco, AmEx were just a few of the large customers). In the heyday (1996-98) the internal quote was 'selling browsers by the bucketful.' Netscape was charging $14.95/seat as the starting price point and all was going well until '98 when MS placed Netscape in its cross hairs and the browser wars began (which is a known and beat-to-death story).

"But in any case, butter up that floppy disk because Netscape definitely gained revenue from more than 10,000 seats of Communicator!"

Peanut butter I think is the way to get a floppy disk down ...

Another way to fight spam

Arthur Blossom wrote in response to the Feb. 14 column on spam that, "Maybe you should dig a bit deeper into spam solutions before deciding that lawyers are the only answer to every problem."

Okay, one, I'd argue that I have never argued that lawyers are the only answer to any problem. But suing spammers does have a certain appeal.

Then again, so does Arthur's suggestion of visiting spamgourmet.

Spamgourmet is a free service that allows you to create disposable e-mail addresses that then forward to your real e-mail account. It's perfect for when you sign up for a newsletter or create an account at an online store, but don't want to get added to another list. If these organizations sell your account to mailing-list operators, it's the disposable account – not your real address.

How disposable? That's up to you. When you create the account, it includes a parameter that indicates how many messages to forward. Any more messages beyond that limit, and they are simply disposed of – not forwarded to you.

It's actually pretty easy – would only allow 3 messages to be forwarded before that mailbox was permanently shut down. Next time, you could use – where "name" is your spamgourmet account you set up originally. And this new account would get up to 12 messages before being shut down.

Nice tip, Arthur!