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20060223

Google Page Creator and spam.

My google pages account... notice that its hosted on googlepages... trippy

Google launched its page creator today... the fact that your third-level-domain is forced to be the same as your gmail account means that the whole "use my name as my e-mail address" gmail thing is probably going to go out the window now. At the very least, I'm going to start registering as many gmail addresses as I can to soak up some free web hosting space, and to give me more options with the naming.

My major concern is this: The fact that your third-level domain has to be the same as your gmail address could have some unfortunate consequences. By finding an active googlepage, they automatically find an active gmail account. Theoretically, I can envision spammers harvesting active e-mail addresses in this manner; once these pages are indexed, a simple google search for "site:googlepages.com" will return thousands of active gmail addresses. I'm surprised that they didn't let people choose their own prefix, as they did with blogger accounts; when I had an active fastmail.fm account, they recommended that you host your public files using an alias, and specifically warn you that the hosting of files under your active mail account could potentially lead to address harvesting. Until Google reveals that it has some ingenious way to stop his kind of address harvesting, I would recommend that anyone that wants to play around with this new service create a "shield" gmail account that they don't plan on using.

I have some other minor irritations, such as the inability to use custom CSS skins and the fine control of the actual HTML of the page. I can't figure out any way to edit the HEAD information of the page, which severely limits my ability to customize the styles or behaviors of the page. I still have yet to explore this fully. However, it's just like me to inspect this gift horse's teeth. It's free web storage at this point, right? For all the times I've tried to transfer semi-large files to another person and had to deal with awkward AIM firewall issues, I think this will definitely come in handy in some fashion or another. I do hope they fix the naming thing.

UPDATE: Well... rather than fix the third-level domain issue noted previously, Google has apparently shut down the creation of new accounts. This actually circumvents the possibility of creating a "shield" account to test this service with a fack gmail address. I would recommend that users be very cautious using this new site without seriously considering the risks of exposing your e-mail address publicly to the spammer-bot community. What's funny is a google for site:googlepages.com is actually returning no hits at this point, but a Yahoo search for the same term returns about 109 active pages. Is it possible that Google is aware of the spam risks to their googlepages users and was hoping to prevent this malicious usage by preventing the pages from being indexed for the time being?

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