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Free Stuff: Guestbooks

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Visitors to non-commercial websites expect to find guestbooks. In fact, they
often get quite annoyed when they cannot find one, especially if they want
to compliment the webmaster. Many visitors are disappointed if they cannot
find one even on commercial websites.

Imagine how it feels to really want to tell a webmaster that he's done a
great job, and you cannot find an easy way to do so. It's enough to make
anyone annoyed ... upset enough not to come back? Perhaps not, but after
working so hard to get a visitor to your site why anger someone who only
wants to tell you that you've done a good job?

On our site we have gone through many different guestbooks. Like many sites,
we began with the standard remotely hosted versions. In general, these did
the job but as our site matured we jumped from service to service,
attempting to find one that suited our needs. After much searching, we
decided to maintain our guestbook by hand (what a pain that was), until
stumbling on the best guestbook script we have ever seen. Once we installed
vizbook we realized we were in guestbook heaven.

Anyway, virtually all of the remotely hosted guestbook services will do the
job. If your site is based on a web host that allows for user installed CGI
routines, then vizbook comes highly recommended.

User Installed Scripts

User installed guestbook scripts are most definitely preferable to the
remotely hosted versions. If you are allowed to install your own scripts,
then by all means do so - you will get a much better guestbook.

Vizbook http://www.dtp-aus.com/cgiscript/vizbook.shtml
I personally tested virtually every guestbook script that was available on
cgi-resources (http://www.cgi-resources.com). Once we stumbled upon the
script called vizbook, we realized we had found the perfect guestbook. Let
me emphasize that point - this guestbook is absolutely incredible. It has
everything, and was even completely customizable to match our site
perfectly. If you can install CGI scripts on your server, then there is no
other choice as far as I am concerned.

Remotely Hosted

Many sites take advantage of the many remotely hosted guestbook services
that are available. The advantages of using a remote service include:

- The maintenance required to upkeep the guestbook is minimal and generally
consists of reviewing the entries.

- Your bandwidth and disk quotas are not affected by the guestboook.

The disadvantages include:

- Remotely hosted guestbooks are supported by advertising, which means
banners. These cause visitors to be drawn away from your site.

- Configuration of remote guestbooks is usually very limited, so the
guestbook will not match your site.

- You are stuck with the features provided by the guestbook provider.

- Most importantly, these services have proven to be highly vulnerable to
the slowdown of internet advertising. As a result, quite a few have
disappeared or become fee driven in recent months. This can be disastrous
for a site when a guestbook with hundreds (or even thousands) of entries is
lost without notice.

Here is a selection of remotely hosted guestbooks.

Bravenet Web Services http://www.bravenet.com/
Bravenet's guestbook service is extremely popular for good reason. It's well
designed and implemented, quick and efficient. Some customization, although
not as much as I would desire. Highly recommended.

Dreambook http://www.dreambook.com/
Unlike most guestbook servers (free and otherwise), you can completely
customize Dreambook to match your site. In normal editing mode, you can pick
from a variety of templates (some of which were submitted by users just like
you), and if you switch into advanced mode, you can edit the html directly
to make your own custom forms. You decide what fields appear in your
guestbook, and how they are arranged. You can even ask your visitors
questions and create complex questionnaires.

Global Guest http://globalguest.com/
Simple, easy guestbook service. Not as customizable as some guestbooks, but
simple to set up.

HTML Gear http://www.lpage.com/
Extremely nice guestbook service with lots of options. This service was good
in the past, so good, in fact, that it was recently purchased by Lycos. Only
time will tell if Lycos improves the service or ruins it.

LemNet.Com http://www.lemnet.com/
Good guestbook service. Fast, reliable and very customizable. You can define
up to 10 custom questions, and there is a wide range default questions, such
as name, email address with link, website with link, ICQ number with status
indicator and comments. These can be enabled by checking a box.

Additional Information

Maintain Your Guestbook - Many webmasters include a guestbook on their site.
Guestbooks are important and must be well kept to be useful.

Netiquette - Guestbook Entries - Guestbooks are a great way to leave public
messages to a webmaster. Just be nice, complementary and helpful.

Graphics in guestbooks are cool - If you want, you can leave a small graphic
in a guestbook to add some class.

Using Photoloft for your images If you are leaving presents in guestbooks,
it's important not to steal bandwidth. Photoloft is an inexpensive way to
leave presents without being unethical.

Bandwidth stealing - Bandwidth stealing is the linking to images or scripts
from another site without permission, thus using that sites bandwidth
without compensation.

Sins of the internet- Bandwidth Stealing - This sin costs hosts millions of
dollars a year - and often you don't even know that you did it!

About the Author

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at
http://www.internet-tips.net - Visit our website any time to read
over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet
profits, enjoyment and knowledge.


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