Smiley Xtra Caution

Last evening I embarrassed myself. More importantly, I offended people who I respect and care about. To them I extend a sincere appology.

I have used Smiley Xtra for awhile now. Smiley is a Firefox extension that uses an online database of smilies and allows users to insert these smilies into forum postings as well as blog posts and comments. Per the Smiley website,

All the smilies in the database are submitted by users of The Smile Project, so if you find a smiley you like, don’t forget to share it with the rest of us!

While it is true that the smilies are submitted by users, these users are not necessarily the ‘owners’ of these smilies, nor are they necessarily the operator of the server on which the smilies reside. In fact *anybody* may submit smilies from *anywhere*. The official page to submit smilies does include this disclaimer:

Please make sure the host that the smiley is hosted allows hot linking, and that the copyright owner and the host of the smiley is happy for you to submit the smiley.

However, there is no indication that Smiley takes any steps to validate legitimacy before making the smilies available publicly. Needing to understand what really happened, I contacted James Baker of Smiley Xtra project who responded as follows:

The Sick smiley was removed several weeks ago after it was found to display the disgusting picture instead of the smiley. What happens is that the server hosting the image can serve up different images based on where the image is being used. As it wasn’t being used on the originating website, I’m guessing they served up the nasty image to discourage hot-linking. Make sure you update your database regularly to prevent similar things happening.

I understand James’ recommendation to update the database regularly as that might have prevented me from passing along the offensive picture. I also noticed that with the new version of Smiley Xtra there is the ability to setup automatic updating. However, updating the database does not ensure that changes on the part of the actual host of the images will not render a previously active and utilized image as something unintended at some point in the future. It is for this reason that I will likely cease use of Smiley Xtra and recommend anyone else to at least consider potential ramifications.