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it probably wasn't google

Ok, after a bit of digging I arrived at the conclusion that the problem I mentioned yesterday, of google's clicktrack ing breaking my logfiles, was probably not google. Rather, it looks like some search engine who is taking google's results for a query, doing their own parsing, and possibly presenting them as their own. As a hint, the referers were wrong or generally empty (something I should have noticed yesterday but didn't), as was the user-agent field.

So it probably wasn't Google. Ok. But this small "incident" presents a number of interesting questions. Not just for Google (how do you stop something like that from happening? My guess is throwing lawyers at them is the only option, at most being careful about monitoring source IPs for requests... but then again if whoever is doing this is smart they could get around that too). But also for end users on both sides. On my side, this is creating a problem that I have to keep an eye on, and the person who is doing the search is looking at something that
looks legitimate but isn't. Hm. The problems of openness.

PS: Note that in yesterday's post I mentioned that webmasterworld thread that clarified that Google was tracking through JavaScript. The beta site (new design) clearly tracks directly through URLs. What is not clear is whether the beta site also has a new form of tracking, or whether the tracking will again be through javascript when the new site is release. We'll have to wait and see.

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on March 8, 2004 at 11:01 PM

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...

Categories: soft.dev
Posted by diego on March 8, 2004 at 7:34 PM

flashes of poetry

Sleep
Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thunder cloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Rain down on him
So let it be
So let it be

Sleep
Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thundercloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Let it rain
Rain on him

MLK, From U2's The Unforgettable Fire.

Poetry in my head tonight for some reason. I kept seeing flashes of Yeats as I listened to this song. So. If you'll excuse me, I'll take leave of my senses for a while. :)
"Now I may wither into the truth."
Categories: personal
Posted by diego on March 8, 2004 at 12:50 AM

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