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RE: Hiding email addresses in an accessible way

From: Jon Hanna <jon@spin.ie>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 14:49:17 +0100
To: "Scarlett Julian \(ED\)" <Julian.Scarlett@sheffield.gov.uk>, "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

> Does anyone have any way of hiding email addresses from spidering 
> that doesn't use javascript? We use a CMS and have no way of 
> stopping content authors from using their work email address as a 
> contact (and in the interests of open government we wouldn't want 
> to anyway) which means that our organisation is opening itself to 
> huge amounts of spam. If there was some bit of server-side 
> witchcraft that we could use to obscure these from email 
> harvesters then I would dearly love to hear it.

Server-side witchcraft is right up my street in a few different ways, but I have to say that there is no *really* good way of doing this; one of the side-benefits of accessibility that we always cite is that it improves the ease with which robots used by sites like google can process the site, and alas that also includes robots we would rather not be visited by.

There are three mechanisms I can think of right now, none of which fit your requirements perfectly, but which differ in just what they trade off:

1. Go with the javascript solution (you're obviously aware of the pros and cons here).

2. Provide a service which your users can use to contact the authors. This is inconvenient and doesn't allow for adding contact details to mail clients for later use, etc. On the other hand you just might actually want to be in a "gate-keeper" position so that you could leverage that in some business-related way.

3. Just stick the email address in.

To be honest I'm increasingly drawn towards the third option, I have long since given up on any attempt to hide my email address and just stick it all over the place and use other mechanisms to deal with the Spam I inevitably receive. Of course that is because I am already beyond the point of no return in this regard and my email address is in so many places (the archive of this list for starters) that it would be Cnut-like for me to try to address the problem at that level, this may not be true for your authors.
Received on Monday, 18 August 2003 09:44:59 UTC

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