Mending Holes in the Blogosphere

Free Vox blogging service controls JavaScript, lets bloggers set privacy controls

Not all bloggers want to broadcast their views and news to the entire blogosphere. So Six Apart is now offering a free blogging service that lets you decide who gets to see what (if anything) of your blog, including any rants, Flickr photos, or YouTube video clips you post.

Vox, a spinoff of Six Apart's popular LiveJournal blogging service, is no ordinary blog. It comes with privacy settings that let bloggers customize and limit access to people they trust -- namely family and friends. The Vox blogging service has been in beta for six months, with about 85,000 users.

Blogging has become yet another attack venue, complete with JavaScript malware getting embedded in comments or cross-site scripting exploits on the pages. Business blogs have also become about as de rigueur as a BlackBerry for many industry bigwigs, particularly in the IT sector.

Barak Berkowitz, Six Apart's CEO, says the company has locked down security in Vox. Users can't put JavaScript and HTML code into their posts, for instance, to avoid malware getting slipped into a page.

"That's one of the biggest security risks." Users can, however, put some HTML code in Vox's "WYSIWYG" posting box, but Vox then strips out any potentially vulnerable code, he says.

Vox also was built to protect the site against Ajax and cross-site scripting vulnerabilities as well, he says. It uses whitelisting to control JavaScript on the blog pages.

But can you really secure a blog site any more than you can secure a social networking one?

"On MySpace, for example, if you want to put a YouTube video into it, you go to YouTube and cut and paste JavaScript and then put it into MySpace," Berkowitz says. "At Vox, all you do is click a button that says 'video,' search YouTube within the Vox application, click on the video you want, and it's automatically inserted into your site. You don't cut and paste, so it's easier and safer because it's not arbitrary JavaScript going onto the [Vox] site."

And unlike social networking sites, where it's all about "networking" and gathering new contacts and "friends" in your social circle and beyond, Vox is more of a controlled social circle.

"Many of these [social networking] sites use an authentication methodology where authentication is at the entry point of a site and not tied to content," he says. A closed profile isn't necessarily closed: You can typically provide other users access to someone's content merely by copying the URL from an end page, he says. "So everyone has access to those end-pages even though they don't have security rights to those pages."

With Vox, a user is challenged for his "rights" to each page, he says.

"If you're doing a post of a trip you took with your little kids and wife and you didn't want their photos on the Web, you could set the privacy for those photos for friends and family only," he says. "And you could set the post to text-only to the rest of the world."

Meanwhile, Berkowitz says to look for privacy to come to some business-related blogging as well.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Six Apart, Ltd.