Thanks, everyone, for your replies.
Its a phase just like the plainly stupid pixel font was a couple of years ago and hopefully it will move on just as that did. Like most design phases though, its usually the designers who decide rather than the end users.
Thanks, the more I look into this practice, the more it looks like unreasoned herd mentality.
You might want to read Designing for Dyslexics and the two follow on articles.
Thanks, Gary. Those articles are the best justification, yet, that I have seen for text with unreadable contrast.
There are three huge flaws with its ideas, however:
[*]No studies were mentioned and no non-subjective data provided.
[*]Most [B]sane people will adjust the brightness and contrast of their monitors[/B] we don't need individual web "designers" screwing things up with unreadable text that is different from site to site.
[*]The articles admit that high contrast is best for most people, and especially the huge group of vision-impaired users, but claims that those with "Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome" need lower contrast.
A Google search for "Scoptic Sensitivity Syndrome" yields only 171 hits. This is either another made-up, yuppie disease (link 1 below) or it is very rare.
Crippling readability for such a small group (and based on no hard data!) is akin to banning underwear in all of Australia because one kid is allergic to cotton.
Several people, on this thread, have now stated that gray text "looks fine", or similar. I speculate that these people have never run usability studies, [i]with end users[/i], on their sites.
Meanwhile, the W3C was so appalled about poor contrast that it set minimum standards but not maximum. Web usability professionals, like Jakob Nielsen, continue to deplore gray text (link 2 below).
I am ready to declare this another case of mass insanity pending a definitive scientific study of text-contrast on monitors.
(This forum prevents newbies from inserting anything close to a hyperlink.)
1: [Nut allergies -- a Yuppie invention](http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-stein9-2009jan09,0,3149168.column)
2: [Let Users Control Font Size](http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20020819.html) (Bottom of the page.)