Graphics for the Web: Plug-Ins

Written by Richard Lowe

You've probably noticed that just about any application of any real significance these days hasrepparttar capability to be expanded in some way. Usually these are called "plug-ins", although they are also called snap-ins (Windows 2000), add-ons, add-ins (Outlook 2000), ActiveX Controls (Internet Explorer) and filters (Adobe Photoshop, as well as any number of other descriptive names.

The concept is simple, andrepparttar 134646 benefits are tremendous. Create an "engine" with basic functionality and allow for expansion by third-parties in a standard and organized way. Thus, for example, even though Adobe Photoshop performs an incredibly number of functions all on it's own,repparttar 134647 authors felt it was necessary to allow others to contribute their skills. They did this by providing plug-ins and filters.

This also, not entirely coincidentally, got aroundrepparttar 134648 concept of "open source" which has been debated all overrepparttar 134649 internet for years. Pure open source is code which can be downloaded and modified by anyone - Unix is a good example of this. Atrepparttar 134650 other extreme is virtually all of Microsoft's products -repparttar 134651 sources are not made available to anyone except under specific and [legally] controlled circumstances. Plug-ins get around this argument by allowingrepparttar 134652 product to be expanded and it's behavior changed without releasingrepparttar 134653 source code torepparttar 134654 general public.

The concept of plug-ins actually came into reality back in 1995. The Netscape browser developers had a problem - there were few, if any, accepted graphics and multimedia (videos, sound and such) standards available onrepparttar 134655 web, yetrepparttar 134656 browser had to be capable of displaying graphics and multimedia. The developers did not want to restrict their browser to just a few standards (which may or may not have become accepted) and they certainly did not want to release a new browser every time a new multimedia format was created.

Thus plug-ins were born. This solvedrepparttar 134657 problem very well. There was now no need to restrict formats or modify and distribute a new browser. All that needed to be done was create a plug in which handledrepparttar 134658 format. And best of all (for Netscape) this plug-in was generally created by some other company.

There were problems withrepparttar 134659 plug-in concept, however.

- Back inrepparttar 134660 days of slow modems, it could take a very long time to download a plug-in

- Plug-ins could crashrepparttar 134661 operating system or cause it to become unstable.

- If a visitor chose not to install a plug-in, thenrepparttar 134662 multimedia object would not display.

- Malicious designers could conceivably introduce security risks throughrepparttar 134663 use of plug-ins.

Soon afterwards Microsoft got onrepparttar 134664 bandwagon with it's own version of plug-ins for Internet Explorer. They called their version ActiveX and made them a little more automatic (by adding some custom code torepparttar 134665 operating system). Ask anyone at Microsoft (especially atrepparttar 134666 training classes) and you be told thatrepparttar 134667 future is ActiveX. However, these controls have exactlyrepparttar 134668 same problem as plug-ins with a terrible security model to boot (any security model which requires an end-user to make a decision as to whether or not unknown code is trustworthy is certain to fail).

Okay, how does this all relate to graphics? Well, plug-ins and ActiveX controls arerepparttar 134669 way you can expandrepparttar 134670 functions of your browser to include new and occasionally wonderful things.

Internet Privacy: Creating A Privacy Policy

Written by Richard Lowe

Any good web site has a certain amount of interactivity which causes visitors to need to enter data of one sort or another. Sometimes this is just a name or gender, and sometimes it is a full array of personal information. Some web sites even ask for social security numbers, addresses or, inrepparttar case of medical sites, highly personal data that would not normally be told even to one's closest friends.

Of course,repparttar 134645 most coveted data is an email address. This is because repparttar 134646 email address allowsrepparttar 134647 visitor to be contacted over and over again inrepparttar 134648 future. This, in turn, improvesrepparttar 134649 odds that something might actually be purchased (assumingrepparttar 134650 site has something for sale) or thatrepparttar 134651 message is read and understood.

In order for a webmaster and company to be completely ethical,repparttar 134652 uses of this information need to be clearly spelled out in simple, plain English. This is called a Privacy policy, and all well designed web sites which ask for any kind of personal data should include one. This is not a legal requirement, it is simply common courtesy. You are asking for something, and you should disclose how that is going to be used and protected (if necessary). This allows people to make informed decisions about what they want to tell you.

What should a privacy policy include? Some of my suggestions include repparttar 134653 following.

Email usage - If you are asking for an email address, then you need to tell your visitors exactly what you plan on doing with it. For example, on our web site we ask for an email address for guestbooks, feedback and joining a mailing list. Inrepparttar 134654 first two instances, we do not userepparttar 134655 email address for anything except a thank you and never send anything else, so this is stated inrepparttar 134656 privacy policy. Of course, we do send repeat emails if a mailing list is joined, but we don't give those email addresses to anyone. This is also clearly stated.

Cookie usage - If your site uses cookies, you should explain completely and fully what they are used for an how long they persist (remain before they are deleted). The press has made a big deal about cookies, and because of that people tend to have very negative opinions. This makes it very important to explain exactly why you are using them.

Advertiser issues - If you have banners or other advertisements on your web site, include a section which explains exactly what privacy issues this might bring up. You might just say you display banner ads, and cookies may or may not be associated with those ads. You might also indicate whether or not a web bug is included withrepparttar 134657 ad (a web bug is a 1X1 pixel graphic used to trackrepparttar 134658 effectiveness of an advertisement). You can get this information fromrepparttar 134659 advertiser or agency (such as Linkshare or ClickXchange). You can also include repparttar 134660 URL of their privacy policy to allow your visitors to explore any issues directly.

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