This visual depiction of the lengths of various companies’ Terms & Conditions – printed out at 12pt, for what it’s worth – is astonishing.

Makes me wonder if one of the metrics that the companies display on their dashboards is the percentage of users who stop scrolling long before they reach the end of the scrolling window or web page that spells out those T&Cs.

You can view this from several different angles: is the villain of the piece the team of lawyers insisting that the company cover itself against all eventualities, the cynical management who know full well how few users will ever read that verbiage, the users who click to confirm that they’ve read the entire thing because they don’t care and just want access to all that lovely content? All of the above?

[Via Flowing Data]

Small pieces, very loosely joined

In writing The Missing Building Blocks of the Web, Anil Dash reminds us of the future we’re missing out on, the future where the web is for publishing stuff on a human scale:

Though the world wide web has been around for more than a quarter century, people have been theorizing about hypertext and linked documents and a global network of apps for at least 75 years, and perhaps longer. And while some of those ideas are now obsolete, or were hopelessly academic as concepts, or seem incredibly obvious in a world where we’re all on the web every day, the time is perfect to revisit a few of the overlooked gems from past eras. Perhaps modern versions of these concepts could be what helps us rebuild the web into something that has the potential, excitement, and openness that got so many of us excited about it in the first place.

Just to be clear, he’s talking about concepts like View Source and Transclusion and publishing your content on your own domain. Not massively complex, unless you want it to be.[note]I’m mildly bothered that he didn’t specifically namecheck RSS, just because the continued survival of that little bit of essential plumbing is way too easy to overlook; we should take every opportunity to remind the world of how useful RSS is.[/note] I strongly doubt that Mark Zuckerberg would agree, but in the long run I know which side of that argument I want to see prevail.

Beneath the Shorteners!

Russell Davies thinks we’re missing out when our browsers hide URLs from us:

[For a while…] domain names and URLs became part of the fun of the web. While the more commercial parts of town got excited about the money changing hands for cars.com, the bohemian quarters were creating baroque constructions like del.icio.us or mucking about with ridiculously domains.

He’s right that our web browsers not ‘wasting’ screen space on displaying a URL in full is a bad thing, though I’m less taken than he is with the joy of broken-backed English language words and phrases being rejigged as domain names just because they ended in .us or .in or whatever. It seems to me that when faced with a shortened URL, the least your browser could do for you is present you with the unshortened version of the URL in a pop-up before you click on it. That way, you could both appreciate whatever degree of wit the site’s owner was trying to convey in constructing that URL , and in the interests of clarity.[note]There’s also an argument that URL shortener sites are bad for us, in part because they are trying to shoehorn themselves into a place in the infrastructure of the internet and this should be resisted in the interests of maintaining the sanctity of DNS as the One True Authority (until we come up with something better) on where a domain lives and what it’s called. But that’s an argument for another day.[/note]

Still, I do like the slogan he suggests for the movement to have browsers devote some screen space do displaying domains again:

Beneath The Shorteners, The Web!

Damn straight!

[Via Russell Davies]

Not theirs, ours

Jeremy Keith is getting nervous about just how and why Google and Firefox are planning to nudge web users into improving the web their way:

One of my greatest fears for the web is that building it becomes the domain of a professional priesthood. Anything that raises the bar to writing some HTML or CSS makes me very worried. Usually it’s toolchains that make things more complex, but in this case the barrier to entry is being brought right into the browser itself.

Or, to put it another way (as he does at the end of his post): This isn’t about you or me. This is about all those people who could potentially become makers of the web. We should be welcoming them, not creating barriers for them to overcome. Damn straight.

[Via Waxy.org