The joke’s on them

30 04 2009

My parents have been loyal subscribers to the Sac Bee for as long as I can remember. Now, after all these years, they are stopping delivery in the area. For many, this would result to a mad dash to the Web as a primary news source, but that probably won’t be the case for my parents — I still get calls for tech support on the DVD player.

Still, it made me wonder about others in the same situation: where will they turn for news?

Online news sites have become a fix-all for many who find themselves in a time crunch. You can skim headlines, watch a video or two, read about 15 seconds of a story — what more could you ask for?

However, things get very amusing when parody comes into play. Even the New York Times has had to deal with this.

Looking at the two pages, they seem almost identical, from the layout and page titles, to the fonts that are used — even the ads look the same.

Personally, I thought it was bordering on creepy.

In the article “How to recognize spoofed Web sites,” “The spoofed site is usually designed to look like the legitimate site, sometimes using components from the legitimate site. The best way to verify whether you are at a spoofed site is to verify the certificate.”
Users should not rely solely on the address bar as an indication that you are at the site you think you are. “There are several ways to get the address bar in a browser to display something other than the site you are on,” according to Microsoft.

The expression “The devil is in the details” can be applied to many areas in life, and URLs are no exception. You have to pay attention. Another perfect example is the difference between whitehouse.gov and whitehouse.org. Just a quick glance is enough to send almost anyone reeling.

For those “in the know,” these sites can be entertaining — just as they were intended to be. But for others, they can create confusion and a mistrust of other reliable Web sites.

In cases such as the New York Times parody site, it blurs the lines between fact and fiction so convincingly that it harms general credibility. The public is already jumpy enough when it comes to the Web and its reliableness. I think this comes down to yet another straw being added to an already breaking camel’s back.

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