Web reviews: Blo.gs, Humanclock, Time Asian Journey, Battle.net, Privacy Bird

Blo.gs

Weblogs (or blogs) are truly addictive. Where else can you get to peek into a stranger’s obsessions and find new sites and strange stuff online? Not all blogs are worth the trouble, however. Some are not updated often enough to make them interesting on a regular basis. Blo.gs can help find only the most recently updated blogs by listing the changed ones minute by minute. You can also peruse the most-watched blog list to find some popular ones. You can even leave a tiny popup window open to see what’s new.
www.blo.gs

Humanclock.com

This is one of those quirky sites that renews your faith in the Web’s ability to throw up strange and wonderfully wacky things. Basically, the site contains 3500 different photos all with people showing the time to make up an ingenious clock. You can submit your own picture of you or a loved one holding up a sign with the time or some other creative means of indicating it. There’s absolutely no commercial aspect to this site — and you’ve gotta love that.
www.humanclock.com

Time Asian Journey

This well-produced site from Time magazine catalogues a journey via classic trains across Asia. As well as the narrative of the journey, there are also photo essays on Pakistan, Japan, India, Korea, China and Southeast Asia. Associated stories by well-known travel writers like Paul Theroux add to the appeal of this site — a must for lovers of grand travel adventures and train travel.
www.time.com/time/asia/eatures/journey2002/essay_iyer.html

Battle.net

Battle.net is a purpose-built online gaming zone that matches gamers with gamers. To get any use out of the site you will need to own one of Blizzard’s games, which is fair since Blizzard put up the dollars. The good news is that, besides having deep pockets, Blizzard also makes some of the best computer games available today, the recent Warcraft 3 being a prime example. It’s a great concept that other large games publishers are getting into as well. Microsoft has the Zone, and Electronic Arts is doing it through both its own ea.com and its subsidiaries such as westward.com.
www.battle.net

Editor's choice: A little bird told me

If you want to get detailed information about how Web sites use your personal data, then you need to listen to a little bird — the Privacy Bird.

A free plug-in from AT&T for Internet Explorer 5 and later versions, Privacy Bird (www.privacybird.com) allows you to specify your privacy preferences regarding how a Web site stores and collects data about you. If a site’s policies meet your requirements, a small green bird icon in the browser’s title bar emits a happy tweet after you have loaded the page. But if the site does more with your information than you’ve said you’ll accept, the bird icon turns red and chirps a shrill warning when you first load the page.

The idea for the bird hatched at AT&T Research, which got involved when programmers at AT&T and many other companies began crafting the Platform for Privacy Preferences, or P3P.

P3P gives Web sites a standardised, simple way to disclose how they collect, use, and distribute personal information about their visitors. Specialised software can automatically query a site’s P3P policy. Internet Explorer 6 uses P3P to give users fine control over which sites may set cookies. But the browser can’t give you any information about how sites will use data entered into registration fields, shopping forms, or message boards.

That’s where Privacy Bird earns its wings. Since its quiet launch in early 2002, the software has been downloaded by thousands of people. According to Lorrie Cranor, the AT&T researcher who headed the Privacy Bird project, about a third of the top 100 most-visited sites on the Web — including Microsoft.com and About.com — have in place the P3P policies the plug-in needs to operate. Unfortunately, that leaves another two-thirds of the largest sites (as well as many other sites) at which the Privacy Bird flashes yellow — a signal indicating only that the site has no posted P3P-compatible privacy policy.

The Privacy Bird is already a useful tool. As more sites create P3P policies, it will become indispensable for cautious surfers.

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Andrew Brandt

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