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Here's an essential tip for anyone creating even the simplest web page...

Never put an email address on any web page without reading and understanding this first

If you use an email address anywhere in your web pages (even hidden in the html) - these will be automatically harvested and sold to advertisers, resulting in a constant and ever increasing stream of annoying unsolicited email (spam). You must protect your email addresses as early as possible - once you've published them and have received some spam - it's probably too late and will require a change of address to stop it.

It is possible put email addresses on your pages that cannot be read automatically but can be read and used by real people.

Programs that harvest email addresses simply scan every page on the web and automatically log anything that looks like an email address. You can disguise your email address so a program cannot see it - but it looks ok and works normally for any real person.

The idea is to chop-up the email address (using a little javascript) so it's unrecognisable to an automatic program - but the script joins the address back together whenever the page is viewed.

Don't panic - it's easy! have a look at this 'mailto:' link...

The link works ok on IE and Firefox - but if you look in the source of this page the email address isn't actually there - it's created by a small javascript routine 'on the fly'. This is good because most email-harvesting programs don't understand javascript so they will miss your address. The link will still work fine for any 'real' people that click on it.

Here's the code that created the link above, these few lines are simply inserted into the html of your web page wherever you want the mailto: link to appear. Of course you'll need to change the user & domain to your own address...

<script language="JavaScript">
<!-- Begin
document.write('<a href=\"mailto:' + 'info@' + 'fax.co.uk' + '\"> info@' + 'fax.co.uk</a>');
// End -->

(If you try to copy from this page your html editor may corrupt it by replacing the arrows with "&lt;" etc. For an exact copy it's best to 'view source' of this page and copy it from there into your html-code editing window)

Use this technique for all these places you might put email addresses:

  • 'mailto' links
  • hidden fields in forms used to specify the recipient
  • email addresses in plain text on web pages

If you modify this technique it's best to break-up at least the domain part of the email address making it completely invalid. Breaking up only the user-id side of the address could cause a partial email address to be recognised and may cause traffic to be sent to your mailserver wasting it's processing time even if it doesn't make it to your email address.

In short - never put email addresses anywhere on an html page without protecting them - You should also make sure your addresses are not listed in any trade-directories that don't do something similar to protect them.


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