Page widening

From Academic Kids

A web browser normally places as many words in a single line as will fit the width of the browser window. However, there are cases where horizontal scrolling is needed. For a large picture, table or diagram this may be worthwhile, but without special measures the rest of the web page is also affected, with long lines that can only be read by cumbersome horizontal scrolling.

This page is very wide due to the examples below. The remainder of this entry is still readable without horizontal scrolling due to explicit use of the HTML tag for forcing a newline: <br>.

Causes of page widening include:

Authors of web pages should realize that users:

  • may have a lower screen resolution
  • may be using a larger font
  • may be viewing several pages in more than 1 window at the same time
  • may be using a PDA
  • may be using a mobile phone

All these may cause a wide page requiring horizonal scrolling.

Page widening by trolls

Page widening is an Internet troll on many message boards and forums, for example, Slashdot. This form of troll causes a web page to widen to a ridiculous width, to the point where one cannot read the text without constantly scrolling left and right. Wikipedia itself appears to be affected by page widening, at least on the Safari, Mozilla and Opera web browsers.

The first true page widening was an accident. Someone posted a UNIX directory listing that looked something like this:

.foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on .foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on .foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on .foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on .foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on .foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on .foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on .foo .bar .dir .bin .etc .and .on .and .on

A now-infamous troll by the name of Klerck used this little trick to make trolls such as:

.i .like .wide .pages .dont .you .like .wide .pages .and .on .and .on .i .like .wide .pages .dont .you .like .wide .pages .and .on .and .on .i .like .wide .pages .dont .you .like .wide .pages .and .on .and .on .i .like .wide .pages .dont .you .like .wide .pages .and .on .and .on .i .like .wide .pages .dont .you .like .wide .pages .and .on .and .on .i .like .wide .pages .dont .you .like .wide .pages .and .on .and .on .i .like .wide .pages .dont .you .like .wide .pages .and .on .and .on .i

Slashdot implemented a fix for this page widening, but only after a considerable time had passed. One possible reason for the delay was that the exploit only affected Internet Explorer and Netscape browsers, which are proprietary, and Slashdot supports open source/free software. Specifically, Internet Explorer's word-wrap code would not break a line before a word starting with a period and would place all the words on one line and thus widen the page. The "alternative" proprietary browser, Opera, was not affected.

This exploit relies on the fact that, when properly implemented, some characters "prohibit line break before" them, as per the Unicode specification [1] (http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr14/). A fix to this problem also exists for phpBB [2] (http://www.phpbb.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=200081).

Less than a week later, a new widening troll appeared:

    http://www.everythinghfgfcdoosammgwsnboivvbsczxlzgabc/ooieiabdcdjsvbkeldfogjhiyeeejkagclmieooionoepdk/abcdefmfighyiqxjklmonopqrosoyotuvwxoyqwertyuiov/sdfghjklqewiuznmbjadzmcloeuirquakndsflksjdflkas/fskdfasiewurznmcvweroiqewrnamdnzcvuowieramnfkas/dfhzuxcihskjrnakjzkjcxbviusayrkajsfzxncvizudyri

. That widener was also fixed, by a filter that automatically inserts a space into postings after a certain number of consecutive characters. This is a source of constant frustration to users who post working URLs or segments of code that are automatically broken when they hit submit. (However, this filter does not affect the contents of Slashdot's link tags; because they do not appear on screen, they cannot widen the page. The filter does not touch them, and they link properly.)

Recently, a new exploit has been discovered, known as the "WWWidener", which still worked in July 2004:

  • WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW . A troll that has been using this tactic on the Lonely Planet Thorntree website is the Duckman, known for his infamous "Quack orff missie" catchphrase. The Duckman is know for his 'zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz' page wideners and PMs
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