A Manchester scientist has developed an open source tool for the Grid Computing Project that could put an end to the vandalising of collaborative websites, known as Wikis.
A Wiki, for those who have survived life online thus far without hearing about them, is a website where users can add and edit content as easily as they can read it. The most famous example is probably Wikipedia, a collaborative encyclopaedia, added to, checked and edited by its users.
The trouble with such sites is that it is just as easy for someone vandalise their pages as it is for someone to add something useful or constructive.
Dr Andrew McNab of Manchester University, comments: "Wikis have been plagued with problems of trust and identity: how do you deal with internet vandals using fake accounts?"
He says his new software, GridSiteWiki, ties the security being rolled out for the Grid with the Wiki concept. The Grid is a global network of computers that can be brought to bear to help scientists crack computationally difficult problems.
Currently, scientists wanting to use the Grid have to get a digital certificate that identifies them to the Grid as bona fide boffins. GridSiteWiki extends this so that all Wikis can use digital certificates to identify their contributors.
McNab acknowledges that some Wikis are deliberately left open to all-comers, but points out that many are set up for particular communities, clubs, employees or other group project work. GridSiteWiki will enable these sites to identify their users.
"We can finally make a Web where you can visit a website for the first time and start contributing straight away, without the administrators having to worry about anonymous vandals with fake identities," he said. ®