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by Ray Carlson

Q: I told a friend about a website. When she searched for it with Google, a red circle appeared next to the website’s name. She said that tells her it is unreliable. Is that true and why don’t I see the red circle?

A: Your friend is using a free browser extension called Web of Trust. Such extensions are small programs that were added to the original browser. We have mentioned a few other extensions in other columns. To add an extension like this, do an online search for extensions for your particular browser or, if you know the name of the one you want such as Web of Trust, search for that name. Once you locate the extension for your specific browser, click on Add It or Download It and that program will be inserted in your browser.

There are thousands of interesting extensions to consider. Web of Trust was developed by a Finnish company that uses a large online community and other web sources to rate sites for reliability, malware, spam and the like. They insert color circles into the domain name of sites. Green indicates that the site has good ratings, yellow indicates mixed ratings, red indicates poor ratings, and grey indicates there is not enough data to provide a rating. Your browser needs their software to recognize the circle. Since the ratings depend on large numbers of responses, they can be slow to catch up with a site that suddenly adds malware or another problem.

Published: Courier 12/18/11 - Page 5C