Safety net

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The Independent Culture

Despite having been the dominant topic of conversation amongst real Internet aficionados, encryption and e-mail security has never really become a topic for mainstream debate. The focus of encryption concerns electronic commerce and the business of keeping things like credit card details secure. In fact, the entire encryption debate was kicked off at the start of the decade by a program called PGP, which has spent years at the focus of the entire thing. As the years have passed, however, the program has become more and more sophisticated without really becoming de rigueur for the average surfer. The main argument for encrypted e-mail is that it acts as an electronic envelope: you wouldn't write personal letters on a postcard, so why send e-mails that anybody can read in transit.

By visiting PGP's International site you can tell it what kind of computer you're using and it should point you in the direction of the relevant download site. Despite its availability, it's still difficult to see PGP taking off until it's incorporated into one of the most popular e-mail programs. At the moment, the convenience of e-mail is almost completely negated by the immensely complicated protocols and passwords that the program uses. If there's one thing that every programmer should have learned by now it's that where the Internet is concerned, user-friendliness is everything.

Signing off aldaily/

One question I've been asked more times than any other is "what's the best page on the Internet?" It's a silly question really as the Internet represents diversity, but in nearly two years of surfing for this column, the one I keep returning to without fail has been Arts and Letters Daily, a fantastic index of useful and interesting articles currently doing the rounds. With contributions from publications all over the world it's the perfect antidote to the megabytes of rubbish drifting through cyberspace. I mention it because my tenure on this column has come to an end. Many thanks for all the tips, questions and criticisms that you've sent in over the years. It's been an education.