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SiteAdvisor, Preview Version

There are a lot of anti-spyware, anti-adware, anti-spam, anti-whatever's-bad-for-your-browser applets out there, many of them useful, simple to use, and yes, necessary. However, while it's nice to have a suit of armor to keep off a mugger, it's even nicer to be able to avoid the mugger's neighborhood altogether. That's where SiteAdvisor comes in.

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SiteAdvisor, which is currently in beta (or, as they call it on the site, the Preview Version), uses Internet bots to "browse sites, download files, and sign-up for things with e-mail addresses." Users access the results by installing SiteAdvisor's software as an extension for Firefox or a plug-in for Internet Explorer.

How? Through an almost ridiculously simple system. SiteAdvisor places green, yellow, or red icons next to each search listing on Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. Sites that force or persuade your system to download unwanted files, or try to fool you into signing up for a lifetime of spam, or link to unsafe sites, or deluge you with pop-ups, get a big red X next to their name. Sites that may link to one or two unsafe sites, or send slightly too many e-mails when you fill in their forms, get a cautious yellow exclamation point. Sites that pass all the tests are rewarded with a nice green checkmark.

Telling All
Want more info? Pass your cursor over the SiteAdvisor icon, and a pop-up balloon tells you how many downloads and site links the bot has registered, and how many e-mails a month you'd get from registering on the site.

But wait -- there's more. Click on the icon, and you get a bunch of charts and illustrations helping to explain -- under the categories of "E-mail," "Downloads," "Link Analysis," and "Annoyances" -- why the site got its rating. Want to drill down even more? A "More detailed analysis" link under the E-mail and Downloads categories will offer ratings for each file available for download on the site, and an explanation of how many e-mails SiteAdvisor received after filling in the site's form. For those of us who are interested in site structure and content, SiteAdvisor isn't only helpful, but can become a black hole of time.

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