May 03 2010

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email address images

Adding valid email addresses to web sites is almost always a bad idea these days. Automated ‘bots routinely scan web servers and harvest email addresses for sale to spammers and scammers. And in some cases, email addresses harvested from commercial web sites can be used in targetted social engineering attacks. So, posting your email address to a website in a way which is useful to human being, but not to a ‘bot has to be a “good thing” (TM). One way of doing so is to use an image of an address rather than text itself. Of course this has the disadvantage that the address will not be immediately usable by client email software (unless, of course you defeat the object of the exercise by adding an html “mailto” tag to the image) but it should be no big deal for someone who wants to contact you to write the address down.

There are a number of web sites which offer a (free) service which allows you to plug in an email address and then download an image generated from that address. However, I can’t get over the suspicion that this would be an ideal way to actually harvest valid email addresses, moreover addresses which you could be pretty certain the users did not want exposed to spammers. Call me paranoid, but I prefer to control my own privacy.

There are also a number of web sites (and blog entries) describing how to use netpbm tools to create an image from text – one of the better ones (despite its idiosyncratic look) is at robsworld. But in fact it is pretty easy to do this in gimp. Take a look at the address below:

This was created as follows:

open gimp and create a new file with a 640×480 template (actually any template will do);
select the text tool and choose a suitable font size, colour etc;
enter the text of the address in the new file;
select image -> autocrop image;
select layer -> Transparency -> Colour to Alpha;
select from white (the background colour) to alpha;
select save-as and use the file extension .png – you will be prompted to export as png.

Now add the image to your web site.

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