Changes are afoot at

That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

From Tuesday, 1st May, 2012, the policy for user comments on is changing, and Google adverts will be disappearing.

Previously, any user who wished to comment on an article needed to sign in to post their comment – which, obviously, meant they first needed to register with the site if they hadn’t done so already. In addition to that, there was a very simple moderation policy, though it wasn’t stated anywhere: Any comments including links needed approval, and any individual user’s very first two posts also needed approval – after that (and subject to the comment including a link), their comments would be automatically accepted.

From 1st May, however, registration will no longer be necessary. From that date, it will be possible to comment on an article on without first being registered, and without signing in to do so.

However, as well as removing the need to be signed in, the moderation policy is also changing, and becoming a little more stringent: All comments will be subject to moderation – they will not appear on the site until they have been read and approved.

Why the change? In part, it’s because someone recently asked to be able to comment without registering or being signed in and, in part, it’s because of the new EU cookie law. uses cookies directly to remember you once you’ve signed in on any given computer. By removing the need to register and sign in, that use of cookies is eliminated straight away, and user consent – as mandated by the new regulations – is no longer an issue.

Cookies are also used indirectly, through the display of adverts supplied by Google. These third party cookies are (all but) out of the site’s control, and are placed on your computer whenever you visit a page on on which an advertising banner appears at the top right. This provides a very modest income, which at best offsets the cost of running the site – it certainly doesn’t cover it.

Those adverts – and therefore the associated third party cookies – will also disappear.

What will replace them? At first, nothing. Other options will be considered at a later date.

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