The stupid EU cookie law

In May 2011 a new law came into effect across the European Union that affects probably around 90% of all websites. The UK government has given UK website owners a year (so, until May 2012) to get up to speed with the legislation and do something about it. The law is to do with how cookies are used.

What is a cookie?

In Web-speak, a cookie is a simple text file that stores information about websites you’ve visited. They can be used for lots of thing, such as for the browser to remember that you are already logged into that website, to store items in a shopping cart on a commerce website, or user preferences on another site.

My main browser (Google Chrome) reports that it has stored 3722 cookies from 1374 web domains.

A cookie for a particular site can only be written to and read by that website. So, Facebook cannot read cookies created by Google websites, and Google websites cannot read cookies created by Facebook.

The worry is, however, that spyware software could potentially access these cookies—they are simple, easily read text files after all—and gain all sorts of information about you, such as browsing habits, personal details, etc. And it seems to be this that the legislation is aiming to address.

The issue

Over the next few months I’m going to have to get my head around this legislation, both for my own websites and for the University of St Andrews website. There has been some interesting and useful discussions about it on various JISC-run inter-university email discussion groups.

My main concern is that this doesn’t ruin the user experience. It’s going to be very, very annoying if you require to give consent to every single website before you can meaningfully use it. My fear is that it’s going to become the Web equivalent of the User Account Control (UAC) nightmare that Windows Vista introduced.

Update

Thursday 5 January

Last night’s post was a bit rushed. I didn’t expand it quite as much as I’d have liked but I was tired and I just wanted to get to bed!

Ironically, I kept waking up during the night thinking about it. At one point Jane was awake so I talked it through with her. She has to put up with that kind of thing from me all the time, poor girl!

Anyway, this morning I got three replies on Twitter:

  1. Surely new cookie guidelines are sensible? Happy to chat about this.
  2. The sad fact is, it puts EU based sites/companies at a disadvantage vs those in the rest of the world.
  3. In intent, sensible. In execution, I’m with @garethjms – stupid. Can only see negatives for UX.

And a couple of comments below (which I’ve only just approved). A nice balance of for and against. I look forward to getting my head around this and posting more about it, here and on my professional blogs.

Blueprint cheat sheet updated for version 1.0.1

20110618-blueprintcheatsheet43

This week I updated my Blueprint CSS framework cheat sheet for Blueprint v.1.0.1 which was released last month.

Changes

I mostly fixed a few typos, and added the new features that the latest version of the framework added: mostly HTML5 input attributes. I made the following changes:

  • NEW—FORMS Added new HTML5 input attributes: email and url.
  • NEW—IE FIXES Added IE8#HACK.
  • FIX—FLOAT CLASSES p .left and p .right was showing the margins only for p .left.
  • FIX—Page 2 was showing a completely different version number from page 1.
  • CHANGE—Updated the list of URLs on page 2, removing one that is now redundant.

Download

You can download it from the usual places including garethjmsaunders.co.uk/blueprint/

It’s released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 UK license so feel free to use it, adapt it, whatever… The source document (in Microsoft Publisher 2010 format) is available on the site too.

Enjoy!

My Opera 11 and Opera Dragonfly 1.0 challenge

20110509-opera11

I spotted on Twitter the other day that Opera have updated their web debugging application Dragonfly to version 1.0. Dragonfly is to Opera what Firebug is to Mozilla Firefox.

I’ve always been very impressed with Opera, as far back as Opera 3. I used to use Opera 5 on my Psion 5mx and I still use Opera Mobile on my HTC HD2 (Windows Mobile 6.5).

So to check it out and put it through its paces I’ve decided to use both Opera and Dragonfly exclusively for the next month in place of Google Chrome (browsing) and Firefox/Firebug (debugging).

Dragonfly is now built-into Opera. Just download Opera 11.10 and to open Dragonfly press Ctrl+Shift+I (Windows) / ⌘+⌥+I (Mac) or right-click and select “Inspect” from the context menu.

I’ll report back here, but I’ll also be blogged about it on My Opera blog.

Who wants to join me?

Blueprint CSS v.1.0 cheat sheet

Blueprint CSS 1.0 cheat sheet

This afternoon I published my Blueprint CSS v.1.0 cheat sheet, a handy guide to all the classes used in the Blueprint CSS framework.

I even got a mention on the official Blueprint CSS Twitter account, which was kind:

Announcement about the latest cheat sheet on the Blueprint CSS Twitter account
Announcement about the latest cheat sheet on the Blueprint CSS Twitter account

The cheat sheet is released under a Creative Commons license, allowing you to adapt the work so long as I’m attributed. The file is available in PDF and Microsoft Publisher 2007/2010 (source copy) formats, as well as on Scribd.

Collusion dream

Fancy starting a new campaign with me? It’s a campaign of collusion for Web designers and it’s really pretty simple, I can’t believe that we’ve not thought of it sooner.

Here’s how it goes: we all agree to completely ignore the existence of Internet Explorer!

That’s it!  As simple as that.

It will, of course, lead to conversations like this:

Client: That new site you’ve just designed, it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer

Web designer: Inter.. what?

Client: Internet Explorer.  My web browser.  Internet Explorer 7.  IE7?

Web designer: IE7? Never heard of it.

Client: You must have heard of it.  Internet Explorer!  It comes installed on every Windows PC.

Web designer: It’s not on mine.  Seriously? It’s called IE7? … nope! Really doesn’t ring a bell, I’m afraid. It must be one of those really tiny, unpopular browsers.  We don’t support those, there’s no point.

That’s my dream anyway, and has absolutely nothing to do with my spending a week debugging some code in IE6 and IE7 … whatever they are.