The end of view source?
July 11, 2000 9:36 AM   Subscribe

The end of view source? New software on the horizon may allow you to control who saves, copies or prints your web content. Are the days of right-click piracy coming to a close? Will this add weight to the budding concept that people might actually pay for content they want? Should we care?
posted by scottandrew (15 comments total)
Bah to this. "Please download a plugin that may not work in your browser or OS of choice so we can pretend that we can control the web."

I sympathize with the problem this is trying to address - other companies scooping up entire sites and reusing their content - but I don't think this solution will fly.

Whatever happened to good ol' IP blocking when you found out someone was scooping your site?
posted by icathing at 9:55 AM on July 11, 2000

My from-the-hip knee-jerk reaction is that, if this catches on, the early adopters will be only those with something tangible to lose: companies with sensitive documents, online professional photo galleries, etc. And it will not be cheap. But the ability to disable someone's ability to view source code or take a screenshot gives me weird, Big Brother creeps.

I'm interested to see how online media outlets view this technology. You may already subscribe to the Washington Post's print edition; would you pay an additional fee to view their content online? Would you pay for an online subscription to McSweeney's if it meant you could forward articles to your friends?
posted by scottandrew at 10:00 AM on July 11, 2000

Vyou isn't the first company to try this. ThingMaker first tried to bill itself as a way to publish controllable, trackable objects ("things", guffaw) to the Web, but the idea bit the dust. Two big problems - the aforementioned "plugin" crud, and the fact that within hours it will be cracked. Some companies will buy it, try it, it'll hang around and flail for a while, then (hopefully) die.
posted by billpena at 10:35 AM on July 11, 2000

TerraServer uses the "Clever Content" plugin on its satellite images, preventing users from right clicking images or even taking screenshots, even on Macs, which seem to be able to capture anything off the screen.

Please die soon!
posted by smeat at 11:12 AM on July 11, 2000

If Tim Berners-Lee and other web-poineers felt their work was "sacred" and not to be shared or learned... none of us would be here right now.

I have only one section that's "right-click/view source protected", and that's only to keep a vulnerable back-door safe.

Other than that, I feel anything on my site is up for grabs. I feel like I owe the innovators and poineers, that did the same for me, that much.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:23 AM on July 11, 2000

Umm... wrong. Your vulnerable backdoor is not safe if that's how you're protecting it. It's in the user's cache, it's in the memory cache, the person doing the network dump caught it, the keyboard view source shortcuts probably still work. If you're really protecting something that way I recommend you stop immediately and find some other way.

In particular, that network dump one is nasty and hard to stop. On my linux system I can dump anything, and you'll be hardpressed to tell that you're on Linux running in WINE and not on a real windows system... doesn't matter anyhow because I control the gateway the house uses.

The only way to keep my hands off of content is to keep it entirely off of my network. And while I'm admittedly more sophisticated then your average user, I'm not some uber-networking genius... it's really not that hard to sniff network traffic.
posted by Jeremy Bowers at 11:35 AM on July 11, 2000

nevertheless, eric's point is well taken. berners-lee didn't patent the web when he invented it. hiding your code is antithetical to the spirit of the web. to me this is another example of people who don't get it trying to control it.
posted by Zeldman at 12:04 PM on July 11, 2000

If you can fetch it via HTTP, you can read it. The author might be able to trick a handful of selected scripting-enabled browsers into not showing his precious HTML source, but that's going to have no effect on a script that fetches a file using HTTP and saves it to a textfile. If you're using Flash, or some other plug-in-based "compiled" format, then decoding that format may be a bit more problematic. However, if a legitimate program can decode it into a useful form on the client side, some bright boy is already reverse-engineering it.

posted by harmful at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2000

I know what you're saying Jeremy, and I appreciate it...

It's a rice paper wall, with a lot of subterfuge. But my site's main crowd are newbies. They're discouraged, have no idea why I did it, and move on. But just *mentioning* what I'm trying to protect (and why) would blow the whole thing....

Anyone on the web longer than six months knows there's a billion ways around a firewall, shareware, password protection or even those right-click javascripts.

Now, with IE5, you can save the entire contents of a web page right into a folder as a "web page complete".

Quite ironic considering how Microsoft would rather fight to the death rather than hand over *thier* source codes.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:54 PM on July 11, 2000

If there's something you want people not to see on the Internet, the answer is very simple: don't put it there. Everything on the 'Net is Public Domain. It will take a few centuries for the human race to realize this. Lawyers will take a bit more than that to convince.

There will always be hackers. They are like cockroaches. There is no such thing as an infallible security system. If you like View Source the answer is again very simple: don't use the crappy new technology.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:13 PM on July 11, 2000

i don't think viewing the source is a bad thing at all. i mean, thats played a role in how i learned java, and html and whatever else. directly pirating is obviously wrong, but shoot.
posted by dominic at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2000

Indeed. I hate to be on the other side on this one, Eric, but my reaction to those "don't steal my stuff" right click-disables is the same as the reported response of the 300 lb guy in the mall parking lot to the "you are too close to the car; please step away from the car" alarm warnings:

I wanna punch the windshield out.

I use the right click menu to go "Back", thank-you-very-much. That "I'll assume you're trying to steal something" dialog makes me want to hunt the webmaster down and murder them in their bed. *Really*.

It isn't *even* that it's a false sense of security. Just don't friggin' accuse me of being a criminal, ok? (Note: I haven't hit yours, so I don't really know what it says...)

Just disable the damned menu completely, if you feel the need.

[ note to future historical websurfers: I'm not particularly violent, and I wouldn't really do that sort of thing, so don't try to introduce this posting as evidence in some later potential court case.

Or I'll murder you in your sleep. ;-) ]
posted by baylink at 8:55 AM on July 12, 2000

Eric: Your right-click javascript alerts tell another story:

"Sorry. No right clicking....when you get your own website you'll understand."

"Saving images or source codes on this site is forbidden."

You might want to revise them.
posted by ericost at 9:54 AM on July 12, 2000

Thanks for the advice, Eric.

I've been working on another alternative, between gigs, that's why it's taking so long.

(Sigh) folks... I did that a year and a half ago. I'd love to explain why... but I can't.

I'll say it again:
"I have only one section that's "right-click/view source protected", and that's only to keep a vulnerable back-door safe. Other than that, I feel anything on my site is up for grabs."

Can we focus on something else besides me and my one point of hypocrasy?
(yeah, I can't believe I just said that, either.)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:10 AM on July 12, 2000

> TerraServer uses the "Clever Content" plugin on its satellite images

Interestingly, does not. Right click away.
posted by ericost at 10:29 AM on July 12, 2000

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