Websites are using hidden tricks to make you click or buy without realising, and the way they do it can be both baffling and controversial, finds Chris Baraniuk. As the precision of these tests becomes greater, there are those who worry that ethics may be thrown out of the window in the pursuit of short-term engagement and creeping profits. A lot of these tricks constitute things like confusingly worded forms during sign-up procedures, or checkboxes which appear innocuous but which in fact sign away your privacy in a single click. To some extent, we have been here before: in the 20th Century, fears grew over the manipulative effects of advertising, leading to regulation of the industry. Unfortunately, the line between a “dark pattern” and a design change that makes a website better for both users and the business is sometimes difficult to draw.
Still, we’re all now becoming increasingly aware of the internet’s secret experiments to find out what makes us click, and they will continue whether we like it or not.
In what is probably the only 2016 presidential election story involving Alan Rickman, a curious block of text has shown up in a JavaScript file used by Jeb Bush’s campaign site. The page appears to have been amended since: Surveying its JavaScript now, one finds plaintext information about contributing to the campaign in both Spanish and English. Every day, millions of trials are manipulating what you see when you browse online, to find out how to keep your attention, make you click more links – and spend more money. It means that the web pages served to you are not necessarily the same as those shown to the next person – they might have slightly different colours, an alternate headline or, on social networks, you could be shown different personal information about your friends and family. This summer, it emerged that Facebook used the technique to experiment on users, without their knowledge, in an effort to influence their emotions. It’s largely used for something called “Conversion Rate Optimisation” (CRO), which is a measure of how well any website is able to engage users. If people have arrived on a TripAdvisor page from a Google advert, for example, they’re more likely to click on a blue button.


The dental referral service 1-800-DENTIST, for example, recently trialled a variety of photos to encourage visitor engagement on their website, along with other tests. Sites like Slate and Upworthy, for example, often test up to 25 headlines using specially designed software to see which performs best. Harry Brignull is a design consultant who keeps an online catalogue of “dark patterns” – design tricks which, he says, unethically manipulate users into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do. But as Brignull points out, techniques for tricking people into buying things have been around for millennia, and plenty of people have profited from them through the ages. But for Christian Rudder of OkCupid, the accusation that “lies” had been fed to unsuspecting users misses the fact that the site’s experiments are ultimately all to the greater good. When he studied the code, Jeremy Bowers of the New York Times came across a summary of all five installations in the Die Hard franchise.
Those hoping to read about the films will have to visit the franchise’s Wikipedia page, from which the summary seems to have been extracted. Bush, likewise, hasn’t taken a firm stance on his willingness to walk barefoot over broken glass for the American people. When Ted Cruz announced his candidacy in March, he did so via a site with badly compromised security. Why Cana€™t Virginia Explain How Jamycheal Mitchell Starved to Death in the Statea€™s Care? The Browser does not display the HTML tags, but uses them to interpret the content of the page. And more recently came the revelation that dating network OkCupid lied to some of its users about their suitability to be “matched” romantically with another member of the site.
What has made it so powerful, however, is that sometimes it throws up results that nobody would have predicted otherwise. Earlier this year, for example, a Google executive revealed that using a different shade of blue for advertising links on search result pages caused more people to click on those links, boosting the company’s revenue by $200m.


This leads to headlines such as: “They Had A Brilliant Idea To Give Cameras To Homeless People. In addition to hooking up mismatched people on dates, OkCupid recently carried out another test in which the subject lines of notification emails were changed for a portion of the site’s members. This could be anything from signing up to subscription services to agreeing that their personal data can be shared with third parties.
Maybe Bush is just hoping that, like the films, the presidency will remain a family affair.
HTML uses special bits of Programming language called "tags" to let the browser know how a Webpage should look. The company was hooking people up with unsuitable potential partners, and then tracking their interactions.
The tags usually come in pairs: an opening tag to tell the browser when to start doing something, and an ending tag to tell the browser when to stop doing something. These can receive huge attention online and be widely shared, but are frequently derided as misleading “clickbait” because the articles or videos they relate to can often be a disappointment. Default Characteristics for every item of HTML markup are defined in the Browser, and these characteristics can be altered or enhanced by the web page designer's Additional use of CSS. This is used to identify the element so that Stylesheets can alter its Presentational properties, and scripts may alter, animate or delete its Contents or presentation.The class attribute provides a way of Classifying similar Elements.



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