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another bad consequence of click tracking

In relation to my post yesterday on click tracking, Yahoo and Google, there's another consequence of the practice of link tracking that I just realized affects noticeably the experience of using search engines: the "visited link" problem. When you get a result from a search engine (and are looking for particular information using multiple keyword searches) it's incredibly useful to be able to see at a glance which URLs you have already visited. This depends on the CSS style settings of the page (or lack thereof), and it's something enabled on the client side. When the browser detects that there's a link you have visited it shows it differently. So far so good.

But when search engines do permanent click tracking, they are affecting the URLs that you receive. If you've visited a certain site in the past, or even during the same sequence of searches but through a referal chain or from another search engine, you're out of luck. The link will be shown as if you've never "seen it" before. Any change whatsoever in the way the click tracking is done affects it, since it affects the URL.

This is a problem, IMO, that search engines should be looking at hard, since it affects the usability of their product quite a lot. As it is, for example, the new Google interface (that I mentioned I was trying out) is tracking every single link, I assume during the testing phase (since they've never done such aggressive tracking before). I'm not talking about that in particular since it's "beta" anyway. But when using different search engines this is definitely a problem. I wonder how it could be solved...

Posted by diego on March 8 2004 at 7:34 PM

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