TBTF for 1996-02-10: Netscape's new features; indecency on hold
Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Sat, 10 Feb 1996 20:49:43 -0500
Netscape Navigator 2.0 is out
Version 2.0 of Netscape Navigator was released last week on all platforms.
As reported in TBTF for 1995-01-31
, Java support
is missing from the Macintosh version.
Here are two features that appear in version 2.0 that were not present in
the betas, to the best of my knowledge.
Colored text: A new option on the <FONT> directive lets you set a color for
any text. (Previously you could specify color only for body text, links,
followed links, and active links, as well as a background color.) Example:
<FONT COLOR=#FFDD99>peach</FONT> gives peach-colored text. Can you say
"garish?" The first page to use both font color and <BLINK> should get a
free pass to Mirsky's Worst of the Web.
Multiple images and GIF animation: Netscape 2.0 can "play" multiple images
from a GIF89a file. The GIF89a standard includes a provision for storing
several images; Netscape exploits this little-known ability to provide
animation on the cheap without Java. And Netscape has added an optional
extension to the standard to allow an animation to loop indefinitely. For Mac
users, a new tool called GifBuilder lets you build multi-image GIF89a files
from a collection of PICT, GIF, and/or TIFF images. GifBuilder was written
by Yves Piguet <piguet at ia dot epfl dot ch>, author of clip2gif. Get version 0.2 from
however that I found it disturbingly easy to freeze my Mac by trying
different combinations of GifBuilder options and feeding the resulting GIF files
to Netscape 2.0; and it's certain death to exit Netscape while a looping
animation runs. I don't know how stable the feature is on other platforms.
[Note added 1996-02-16: Scot Hacker <Scot_Hacker at zd dot com> sent these
corrections and comments.]
NS 2.0 has supported colored fonts from the first beta. You're right about the
potential for garish abuse of the priviledge, but many thousands of people are
using the option tastefully. As in art, as in writing, garishness is in the pen
of the html author, not the tools at his/her disposal. I welcome every advance
that brings the page-layout and design features to html that one might have in
GIF89a animations have been supported since beta 4 or 5 (almost a whole
month!). The current Windows creation tool for this is called GIF Construction
Netscape didn't add the ability
to loop animations -- 89a has been able to do this for a long time. NS just
started supporting the feature. For more info, see my article on the subject at
You're absolutely correct about NS crashing if you try to quit when one is
running. In addition, if you leave a loop running for a couple of hours, your
system resources will deplete down to zero. Ouch.
1995 on the Net
A succinct and pithy summary of 1995's Internet events
came my way on two different mailing lists last week; its origin is shrouded in mystery.
It reads more like a
newspaper piece than a Usenet posting, and its author is clearly quite
knowledgeable about Net happenings and culture. I tried to trace the author
through all the intermediate forwarders from both mailing lists, but in
vain. Alta Vista does not show it anywhere on the Web or in current Usenet
postings. If anybody can identify the origin of this article, please let
me know. If it was indeed copied or scanned from a newspaper I'll take it
The Communications Decency Act
See also TBTF for
Followup: censorship provisions in the telecomm reform bill
At 11:00 AM on Thursday 2/8, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications
Reform bill into law with a digital pen. Minutes later the Justice
Department conceded in Federal court (Philadelphia, ACLU v. Reno) that language
in the bill extending the ban on "indecent" material to include discussion
of abortion is unconstitutional (but refused to put the concession in
writing). In a separate court hearing (Brooklyn, Sanger v. Reno) the U.S.
Attorney also agreed that the Justice Department would not prosecute
abortion-related information on the Net. The ACLU suit requested a temporary
restraining order against the enforcement of any of the indecency provisions;
the judge required the government to file a reply within 7 days, by 2/14,
and to refrain from enforcing the provisions during that time. Within hours
of the signing President Clinton told the press that the abortion
restrictions would not be enforced.
A reader from outside the U.S. wrote to me in confusion, finding "The Wild
West becomes the Bible Belt overnight" full of too-intricate detail about
the American political process and landscape, and colloquial to boot.
(Probably others in the 25 countries to which TBTF is delivered were confused
too.) I knowingly invited confusion by favoring timeliness over background
detail. Anyone interested in my reply
to this reader can find it on the archive.
Here is an opinion from a Washington lawyer at the firm of Pepper &
Corazzini, Neal J. Friedman <njf at commlaw dot com>, laying out what the Communications
Decency Act of 1996 means to U.S. citizens. He covers some aspects that TBTF
didn't touch on: the role of the Federal Communications Commission and the
restrictions placed on states. This material
is posted on the TBTF archive by permission.
I received one expertly written and charming
blast from the far right wing,
in fact from the very Bible Belt of the title.
The author is Leon Blocker <iinet at muscanet dot com>, self-described
"publisher, right-wing idealouge, neanderlithic knuckle dragger, racist, homophobe,
and bigot." It was only TBTF's second flame. Perhaps I'm being insufficiently
opinionated. Mr. Blocker's letter is posted on the TBTF archive by permission.
> for an efficient
dismembering of the "information superhighway" metaphor. This rant has been
around the Net for some time, but I have never seen an attribution for it.
A bit of research using Alta Vista reveals six Web sites that host the
article; the evidence points to Jim Wiedman <jwiedman at esri dot com> as the possible
author (he's at least the earliest extant poster). Jim says on his home page
that he enjoys forwarding humorous pieces on the Net but that he doesn't
write them. In any event Jim posted the piece to alt.religion.subgenius on
1995-05-24 from <jimvdw at aol dot com>.
> The Alta Vista search engine is at <http://www.altavista.digital.com/>.
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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