Jens Oliver Meiert

Thoughts on Disclaimers

Post from October 28, 2008 (↻ August 24, 2017), filed under .

How awesome that these are particularly popular in Germany: disclaimers on both websites and emails. Recently I came across the German Wikipedia article on disclaimers which talks about the topic in detail, and I could not but go for yet another “thoughts” post, focusing on the worst in disclaimers.

In a nutshell: We deal with misconceptions around both the Web as well as disclaimers, disclaimers say silly things, and there are some laws in some countries that require you to use them.

Website Disclaimers

The “technical approaches” recommended by Wikipedia that should come with site disclaimers are great to avoid being linked to other websites:

The article seems to reflect a discussion that shouldn’t exist. There have been few thoughts about usability, then ramifications. The only good thing is that German courts don’t require external links to be accompanied by disclaimers and the like yet (contrary to what many people seem to think considering more than 150,000 disclaimers quoting a 1998 court order) as fortunately, it appears to be the context that is important.

Email Disclaimers

There are a lot of questionable signatures out there already—something I forgot to mention earlier, huh—, however Germany introduced new requirements for corporate mail two years ago targeting companies listed in commercial registers. Among the mandatory things (otherwise to be fined) signatures need to include the name of the company owner or executive, company name, legal form, full address of office location, register entry and number; on top of that there is the name of the sender and his or her position, &c., easily resulting in signatures that are longer than 20 lines.

This requirement compounds the issue with all-popular top-posting habits, contributes to even more cluttering, and makes email even less user-friendly. A simple solution like having a link to the companies’ website that contains the required information added to signatures might meet legal requirements, but apparently, that would mean that you have to designate that link as external, including the date when you created or updated the signature, and…

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo of July 27, 2015.

Jens Oliver Meiert is a developer (O’Reilly, W3C, ex-Google) and philosopher. He experiments with art and adventure. Here on meiert.com he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.

There’s more Jens in the archives and at Amazon. If you have any questions or concerns (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.

Comments (Closed)

  1. On October 28, 2008, 21:09 CET, Dave said:

    As usual, you’re spot on. It’s of course important to accommodate users, but I’ve received a growing number of requests and questions along the lines of “what if our users don’t know that the blue underlined words are a link?”

    As web developers, I think it’s important that we refuse many of these silly changes rather than assume the role of kindergarten teacher for each visitor to our site.

  2. On October 29, 2008, 10:52 CET, Michael Schmidt said:

    Still, Wikipedia has nice little icons for external links as well.

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