Practical Ecommerce

Tech Support: November 2006

What are Technorati tags and what do they do?

Technorati is a website that provides an index of the web, allowing people to find up-to-the-minute information and web content. One of the ways Technorati achieves this is by using content tags, which are also used by other sites, that provide content information. A content tag is a specially structured hyperlink which includes a rel=tag attribute. For example, here is what a Technorati content tag would look like in HTML code:

<code>&lt;a href=”http://www.technorati.com/tag/content+tag” rel=”tag”&gt;Content Tag&lt;/a&gt;
</code>

As you can see, this link goes to Technorati and is defined as a content tag. The goal of this specification is to allow content providers (web developers) to create links that will describe the content of the pages they create. Content tags provide a way for authors to define keywords that are relevant to their content. On the Technorati side, the tags are read by a spider and used to compile relevant information for users that are searching for it.

In a nutshell, Technorati, along other sites that use content tags, provides an author-driven method of compiling relevant information. Users can easily find up-to-date information for which they are looking, and content providers can easily tag their content to be found more easily.

Can someone who accesses the Internet with a mobile phone view my ecommerce site and purchase products?

Yes they can. The Internet works relatively the same regardless of what device you are using to access it. Essentially each device, whether it is a computer, a mobile phone or any other portable device, uses a web browser application in order to view websites. This web browser application sends request to the web server and receives the HTML file, images and any other files that are required to view the website. So far. the process is exactly the same as with a computer.

The differences come down to display. Most mobile devices will try to display a website as best as it can, whether that means scaling down images or removing them altogether. This is where CSS formatting comes in and why the shift to XHTML is so important.

Web developers can create multiple style sheets to define visual formatting, and also set which stylesheets are to be used for which devices. For example, a developer could make a style sheet for screen display, one for print display, and another for mobile device display. Since the device will identify itself automatically, the proper formatting will apply depending on the device used. This allows web developers to optimize the formatting for each device. Even though any website can be accessed via a mobile phone, it will be less effective unless it is formatted to accommodate those visitors.

What is a favicon?

Have you ever wondered when you visit some websites why a little graphic appears in the address bar, usually to the left of the website URL? That graphic is called a favicon, which stems from the term “favorites icon.” The name has its roots in the Internet Explorer web browser, which also displays the favicon graphic in the “favorites” menu, next to the bookmarked web page. So what is a favicon exactly, and how is it different from other graphics?

Favicons have the file extension .ico, which is an icon file format. Today, in both Windows and Mac operating systems, there are various icons that can be displayed at different sizes. Rather than being a single graphic, an icon file is more of a collection of graphics that are of varying resolutions. Depending on the where the icon is being displayed, a particular image resolution is selected. In the case of favicons in web browsers, the usual display size is 16 pixels by 16 pixels.

Favicons need to be packaged by an application that is designed to create .ico files. There are free plug-ins for Photoshop that will create favicons, as well as multiple online services for having a favicon created. Once created, the favicon file simply needs to be uploaded to a website root directory, and linked to in the head of all HTML documents.

Has anyone ever cracked the encryption of a 128-bit SSL certificate?

To my knowledge, nobody has ever cracked the encryption generated by a 128-bit SSL certificate. That is not to say that it has never happened or that it will never happen, especially considering advances in computing. However, many experts agree it would take an average Pentium-based PC somewhere around a million years to successfully crack the 128-bit encryption. In addition to that, the patient hacker would only have deciphered a single, probably useless, piece of information because a new 128-bit encryption key is generated for each exchange between a browser and the server.

Of course, someone could get a group of computers working together to crack the encryption, which would most likely be the case. Theoretically the time needed to crack a 128-bit encryption could be brought down into the span of a human lifetime, but it would take a virtual mountain of computers. Factor in the cost of powering and cooling those computers over that lifetime, and you are looking at a very large financial investment.

I’m a believer that most thieves, hackers and con artists have decided upon their respective career paths because they are interested in profit. There is not much profit in trying to crack encrypted messages, especially when credit-card numbers and other sensitive data can be so much easier to come by. However, each day that processors get faster represents a day that current security measures are closer to being obsolete. Soon there will be 256-bit keys, then 512-bit, and so on, but there will always be easier ways to steal.

Brian Getting

Brian Getting

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