For those of you who enjoy using Mozilla‘s Firefox web browser, there is an updated version (1.0.1) available for download. I recommend that you get this updated version immediately. If you are interested in the improvements, you may view the release notes for Firefox.

Read on to learn about an extremely handy Firefox extension for the BugMeNot service.

BugMeNot and Registration Woes

In related news, I just discovered the BugMeNot Firefox extension, courtesy of Eric Hamiter. Suppose you’re browsing the New York Times website and click an article. Uh oh, you’re not registered, are you?

The NYT is one of many websites that require compulsory registration in order to enjoy all of the features available. This is all well and good, but to me there is no value whatsoever for opting in and providing the NYT with vital demographic information. In fact, I am personally opposed to such disclosure.

What’s a privacy-minded geek to do when confronted with the following page?

Times registration required screen.

Never fear! This is the sort of thing was created for. BugMeNot is a repository for disposable login and password combinations. In other words, one person creates a login with completely bogus information, and then shares it with everyone else. End result: no privacy is lost, and the NYT thinks users like “joebleaux” really, really like the web site.

The BugMeNot Firefox extension makes this process completely painless. I right-click the username field…

The BugMeNot context menu.

After clicking on “BugMeNot”, is automatically contacted, a login is randomly selected and submitted, and…

The NYT article I wanted to see.

A Lesson for Website Developers

Tech like BugMeNot is always going to develop in response to annoying registration schemes and the like. Requiring registration without giving the user something in return is quite arrogant. In order to get something, you must first give. Therefore, when desiging web sites that require registration, I believe it is essential to give the user value in return for their personal information. A heavily personalized, customizable web site is one example of such added value.

I firmly believe that a technological arms race will continue concerning data collection and marketing on the web. The only solution is to generate content and provide service that users want, rather than using content as bait for personal information.

Coming up…

In a later article, I’ll discuss another great Firefox tool: Adblock. This extension may change the way ads are distributed and displayed on the web—forever. Stay tuned.