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Delete Cookies, Inflate Net Traffic Estimates

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the throwing-them-off dept.

The Internet 217

eldavojohn writes "In my browser, I regularly go to the tools menu and clear my private data. This includes my cookies. As a result, people like me who destroy cookies by the thousands may be inflating estimates of Web traffic by up to 150 percent. People have good reasons for clearing out cookies — we've heard about bad cookies before (and I think the FCC is still investigating the issue). But every time you delete cookies, many of the sites you've visited count you as a new visitor next time."

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217 comments

On the other hand... (2, Informative)

Yusaku Godai (546058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769737)

...you could be like me--I block all cookies from all sites until I've added them to my whitelist.

Re:On the other hand... (5, Interesting)

dattaway (3088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769865)

and be sure to set your browser to "googlebot"

That way no one has visited but another web spider!

Re:On the other hand... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770155)

I just forward all my cookies on to Santa - I get good presents

Re:On the other hand... (2, Interesting)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770251)

Heh. I do the same thing.
Of course, a site could also try tagging me by serving me a uniquely timestamped file modification date on some piece of server content. Assuming I cache, that'd also serve for tracking.

Isn't like everything is just cookies and IP tracking.

Or heck, SSL session ID makes for short-lived tagging to determine a visitor, as does analysing site access patterns.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770433)

Hm. Super-convoluted. Use a javascript image portscan to attempt a fingerprint to try and determine if the IP has moved, if the visitor is identified as coming from a dynamic range.

Re:On the other hand... (1)

Derek Pomery (2028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770785)

... how about 301? Let's say a site redirects from / to /DEADBEEF1234/ or from /webbug.gif to /DEADBEEF1234/webbug.gif with a 301 - that seems that could track people too.
And let's not forget flash - it has a local store for saving flash app information, often on by default.
I wonder if a really determined ad company might not have a half-dozen methods of tracking me.

...And? (2, Funny)

xlsior (524145) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769767)

News at 11 -- Water still wet.

somethin's wet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769921)

News at 11 inches, your momma's still wet...cuz I did her...haaaaaaaaaard.

Re:...And? (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769995)

Oh darn. An audience that varies from day to day that is very large to begin with is difficult to count. Find a metric that everyone is happy with it, realize it isn't reality any more than any other metric, and move on with actually being a BA. The worst problem with most BAs is that they are constantly inventing reasons that something has to be analyzed again. Accurately counting television viewers, sports event attendees (as opposed to ticket holders) raindrops and grains of sand might keep you entertained, but it's unlikely you'll ever get the correct answer. Besides, does it really matter if your website had 1 million visitors as opposed to 1.5 million? What would you do differently with the extra 500,000 visitors?

Not users fault (1)

pianowow (960330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769997)

There are too many other ways of tracking unique vs. returning visitors. If a site relies only on a tracking cookie, it's their own fault for misrepresenting the new hits to their site.

It's not the fault of the person who deletes the cookie. It's the fault of the website for relying on flimsy evidence.

no really, she's wet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770083)

No really, at 11 inches everyone heard the news that your momma's still wet cuz I did her....haaaaaaard.

Re:...And? (2, Funny)

amper (33785) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770209)

And in other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is *still* dead.

150%? Please (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769769)

It's not that many people, compared to the hundreds of millions of people on the net. There are also other ways of tracking people like IP addresses possibly in combination with browser UA string.

Re:150%? Please (4, Funny)

w3woody (44457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769825)

There are also other ways of tracking people like IP addresses possibly in combination with browser UA string.
Unless you're on a corporate network behind a NAT with a standard-issue OS install with a standardized browser.

Re:150%? Please (1)

thue (121682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770403)

Or a dialup user who is allocated a new DHCP dynamic IP for each reboot.

Re:150%? Please (1)

will_frag_for_food (1063768) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770705)

nah... nobody surfs the web from work... what a ridiculous concept!

In South Korea (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769781)

only old people use cookies

No surprise (3, Insightful)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769785)

I hadn't thought about counting it this way until this article appeared but, now that it's said, I'm not surprised. It doesn't matter what the consumer does. The business analysts will always find a way to spin it for their profit. Initially the business analysts thought that this would be a perfect way to track all of the visitors. When some of the visitors decided they didn't want to be tracked then the business analysts decided that, well, maybe tracking them (in that particularly way) wasn't the important metric for the shareholders to see. The more important number, obviously, is how many discrete visitors they have.

Brilliant.

Don't use cookies to log traffic (1)

spazmolytic666 (549909) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769793)

Use IP address. Use webalizer [mrunix.net] . People using cookies to log traffic raise internet traffic by 150%, how about that!

Re:Don't use cookies to log traffic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769949)

This is, you'll pardon me, rampant ignorance.

Most users of many sites come from businesses. Most businesses run users through a proxy. This means that a large number of users will come from the same IP. Also, many proxies have multiple IP's they rotate users through (AOL being a great example).

Sorry, tracking by IP is significantly less accurate than tracking by cookie.

Re:Don't use cookies to log traffic (1)

spazmolytic666 (549909) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770183)

Yes I well aware of this fact Anonymous Coward, but if you don't require your users to log in, there should not be any cookies that you leave. period.

Disabled Cookies? (1)

marcog123 (969158) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769801)

What happens with people who have cookies disabled? In this case each hit will be counted as a unique visitor, unless the site checks IP address or other details.

Re:Disabled Cookies? (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769925)

Smart software can detect that. At least if they click to another page, or if it brings down images etc.

So what? (3, Insightful)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769803)

If the primary concern is for unique visitor tallies for traffic-based advertising, wouldn't web sites be affected (mostly) across the board? If all web traffic is artificially inflated close to the same amount, then this becomes a non-issue.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770075)

Maybe they want to evaluate advertisements on the web compared to other media like magazines. The idea being that if they figured out the constant of proportionality between these two in the 1990s then this value isn't valid today.

Re:So what? (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770113)

If all web traffic is artificially inflated close to the same amount, then this becomes a non-issue.
True. But I'm certain some websites have a higher proportion of visitors with cookies disabled... slashdot, for example. The trick, then, in order to make discrete visitor metrics truly useful (from a marketing standpoint) is to normalize for cookies-disabled visitors. Some factors that would have to be considered are how many cookies-disabled visitors access your site, and whether disabled visitors exhibit the same repeat visit habits as enabled visitors.

This is why there is research out there to use methods other than cookies and IP addresses to identify users -- see this article [slashdot.org] from last September.

I'm sure this concept can get some VC if companies begin distrusting current traffic anlayses -- it would be a useful adjunct to traditional traffic monitoring.

150%? (5, Informative)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769805)

That assumes an awful lot of people do that.

I don't do it because it is a pain to constantly log back in everywhere. But I seriously doubt more than 2% of the non-slashdot crowd does it.

Re:150%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769975)

I don't do it because it is a pain to constantly log back in everywhere.

This really isn't about sites you log into. For those, they already have a mechanism of knowing who is on - the login session. This is more about sites that send everybody a cookie simply for the sake of counting users. Those sites will end up counting high. It's likely they don't really care that they're counting high until the people they are trying to sell on advertising space start saying that they don't believe the traffic numbers because of this. In general, most companies I've ever seen are more than happy to believe they are getting more traffic than they really are.

I remember way back in the day with a customer who was happy that his 'hits' went up when his site was redesigned. I pointed out that he was counting ALL requests. The new design had more images than the old one and, therefore, a single load of the index page would generate a 50% increase over the old site even if the number of users and page views stayed the same.

Re:150%? (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770121)

What login session are you talking about? Sites like slashdot keep track of me with a cookie. Sure, they might appeand a session id to the url while I'm here, but every time I leave and then come back to the site I'd have to log back in if not for the cookie.

And BTW, if I ever delete cookies, I tend to go through them carefully and leave the ones I want to keep (such as slashdot, nytimes, etc). The problem there is that it takes me 20 minutes to do it. I've yet to find a nice firefox extension that makes this a lot more efficient, but maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

Re:150%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770563)

That Firefox extension is called "Opera". It allows individual settings for each site, including cookie settings. Set the defaults to delete all permanent cookies when you close the browser, then set the settings for the sites you like to not delete the cookies, and hey presto, it's fully automated.

Re:150%? (1)

kilgortrout (674919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770847)

In firefox go to Preferences>Privacy. Tick "Accept cookies from sites". In the "Keep until" menu, select "I cose firefox". That will delete all cookies when you close firefox. You then click the "Exceptions" button and set the "Allow" option for all the websites you want to have leave their login cookies.

Re:150%? (2, Insightful)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770427)

No, it's just bad math and/or horrible reporting. The article states that 31% of visitors deleted their cookie. That means the increase in reported traffic might be (31%/69%)=45%. They probably meant an increase *OF* 50%, which is an increase *TO* 150%.

this is a non-story (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769807)

please remove it.

So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769819)

If cookies aren't reliable, find something else to do your estimates.
It's no rocketscience

FTC, not FCC (3, Informative)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769821)

The FCC has little reason to investigate cookies.

Re:FTC, not FCC (3, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769901)

That's funny, maybe you should tell them...

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/15/16 22251 [slashdot.org]

Re:FTC, not FCC (1)

yoyoq (1056216) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770561)

you should check your sources one level deeper than the slashdot summary.
the original article was FTC, the summary was FCC

Re:FTC, not FCC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770647)

The Slashdot post and title say "FCC", but the actual article says "FTC".

Re:FTC, not FCC (1)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770727)

Interesting. I don't think the FCC has any regulatory authority that would cover cookies. Not that they'd necessarily let a minor thing like that stop them...

Re:FTC, not FCC (2, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770119)

The FCC has little reason to investigate cookies.

I thought the FDA was responsible for investigating cookies...

Re:FTC, not FCC (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770375)

If the Federal Cookie Commission doesn't look at cookies, then what do they look at? Are you telling me America isn't prepared for a Cookie Monster attack?

Re:FTC, not FCC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770829)

What about the FDA? I thought cookies were their domain.

Oh, wait...

At last! (1)

brennanw (5761) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769827)

I finally have the secret to ultimate web traffic power! Now my alexa ranking will go through the roof! THROUGH THE ROOF, I TELL YOU!!!

What I do in my computer is my business (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769839)

I delete cookies, permit them, leave them on, it is all my business. I am under no obligation to provide web site operators reliable count of how many uniqie visitors they get. They should stop complaining and develop better ways to count unique visitors. If they cant, it is still not my problem.

Re:What I do in my computer is my business (3, Insightful)

catbutt (469582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770045)

While I mostly agree with your sentiments (I don't think anyone said it was your obligation) --- to be the devil's advocate: if they can't make money and shut down their site, it does become your problem.

Re:What I do in my computer is my business (1)

nadamsieee (708934) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770319)

While I mostly agree with your sentiments (I don't think anyone said it was your obligation) --- to be the devil's advocate: if they can't make money and shut down their site, it does become your problem.

No, that is most definitely still the website's problem. If they can't figure out how to stay afloat without forcing their customers to do something they don't want to do (like keeping cookies for example), the competition surely will. Failure is a good thing [cnn.com] ; its a sign of a healthy economy.

Re:What I do in my computer is my business (1)

rhombic (140326) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770421)

Many websites are entertaining to me, but there's not a single one whose disappearance would constitute a major problem for me.

Re:What I do in my computer is my business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770941)

If your business model is totally reliant on having an accurate visitor count, even though the technology just doesn't support it, then perhaps you should/i> go out of business.

Re:What I do in my computer is my business (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770995)

Oh no! If this happens, the internet might become much less commercial!

Re:What I do in my computer is my business (2, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770125)

Sure, since neither cookies nor IP addresses are good ways to count traffic you'll start seeing an increase in sites that don't let you do anything until you register. Frankly, this is already happening. I've searched for plenty of technical questions on google that land me on forums that require you to register to even read the posts. This means you have to give them a valid (well long enough for you to get the confirmation) email address and username/password. The worst part is that a lot of times those sites are really slow to send out the email and you're stuck waiting for it to solve your problem. It's obnoxious, but I guess they have to do it since they can't count traffic reliably otherwise...

Re:What I do in my computer is my business (1)

Zephyros (966835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770431)

I've searched for plenty of technical questions on google that land me on forums that require you to register to even read the posts.

Try viewing Google's cache of that result. If the forum post is showing up as a search result, Googlebot must've been able to see it. That's worked for me in the past. It's not perfect, though -- if you have to dig into that forum any deeper than just that page, you're out of luck and have to go through the registration like you said. :/

Sometimes that's for traffic, though. (2, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770459)

I'm sure there are lots of reasons for doing it, but most bulletin boards that require registration in order to read, at least in my experience, do it in order to limit traffic, not count it. It's a way of keeping costs down, albeit at the expense of making the board less useful as a resource to the general public.

Unfortunately the best board relating to Knoppmyth is like this; it was just too expensive for the maintainer to run openly; the traffic cost too much. By requiring registration to read, it cut down on traffic enough to make it affordable. Given the choice between a register-before-reading board and no board at all, I think the public is best served by the former.

Re:Sometimes that's for traffic, though. (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770547)

See, I disagree there. This means a lot of the valuable information is locked up in a forum that people may well not find because it doesn't show up very highly in Google. The public may be better served by abandoning the guy on a shoestring budget and posting in forums that get indexed by search engines.

Small businesses (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769847)

Deleting cookies makes life difficult for the small businesses struggling to grow. I try very hard to optimize my advertising costs with Google, and if I can't figure out if you've already visited I'm going to miscalculate. I'm not saying you owe me anything, but please don't go out of your way to delete cookies simply out of some feeling of empowerment. My cost of acquiring new customers makes an enormous difference in my bottom line, and the more accurately I can gauge that the better I can run my business.

And believe me, you're not making a rich man richer, you're making a middle-class man better able to support his family.

Re:Small businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770117)

And f**ck you too.

It is not MY responsibility to validate YOUR business plan.

Re:Small businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770397)

Like I said, you don't owe me anything. But in the real world, the best shopkeepers remember their customers. They remember what they like, what they were looking for last time they came in, etc.

In the real world if a shopkeeper said "Hi, nice to see you again. Did you find that X you were looking for?" I doubt that your response would be "Fuck you." If every time you came in the guy acted like he'd never seen you before you'd think he had Alzheimer's. Then you might say "fuck this guy. He doesn't even know I'm alive."

It often takes more than one visit for a visitor to become a customer. If I can remember that I've seen him before I might be able to emphasize parts of the site that he hasn't seen. And if I can notice that people who begin by going down "aisle" #1 are likely to come back, and those who start in aisle 4 never come back, well, I know I should probably place more emphasis on #1, and at the same time go figure out what's wrong with #4.

And just maybe it will be better for both of us.

Re:Small businesses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770955)

There really is a world of difference between a human being welcoming you back to a local business and a computer program printing "Welcome back Miss Doe!" on the screen. The former impresses me, the latter reminds me how much I dislike being tracked for commercial purposes.

The only time I like cookies being used is when they are useful to *me*. The vendor improving their site could be called useful but if I'm a returning customer, I obviously didn't have so much of a problem with the site that my custom was lost in the first place. This sort of indicates that it's not really all that useful to *me*.
A web forum remembering who I am so I don't have to log on each and every time is IMHO actually quite a useful function (within reason) and it's things like this that I will keep cookies for.

If the cookie is more useful to the website owner than it is to the visitor you really shouldn't complain when people dump it since it's garbage to the person whose hard disk space it's taking up.

CookieSafe is my current favourite (4, Informative)

KenAndCorey (581410) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769855)

Cookiesafe allows me to keep my permanent cookies to a minimum, yet allow me all the functionality of session cookies. Of course, it does inflate the stats as the article mentions. In my previous job I worked with stats quite a bit (using WebSideStory/Hitbox), and it is such an inexact science that it ranks right up there with Lies and Damn Lies.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/249 7 [mozilla.org]

Anyone have other suggested software they prefer?

Re:CookieSafe is my current favourite (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770221)

Web statistics is something that's extremely hard to track once you start talking about unique visitors. Ideally, you want to get this down to exactly how many actual people are using the site, but usually it comes down to the number of computers accessing the site, with people who delete cookies being counted as a new user. Some systems count each IP as a different user, but that doesn't account for users behind a NAT, or those with changing IP addresses. The idea is however, that those two groups cancel each other out to some degree. There's also a lot of users who may access the site from many different computers, including Home, Laptop, Work, Cell Phone, Web Cafe, Wii, and others. You can inflate the numbers a lot if you're looking to impress people, or you can try to get accurate statistics that are actually meaningful if you want to actually analyze the data.

Totally agree -- though hard to believe the extent (1)

techitout (998972) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769887)

This is all so true -- but the same can be said for any method of tracking internet traffic. Think of the Alexa toolbar, or the new Compete toolbar (completely biased). This particular ramification will be more widespread, as the big traffic monitors like HitWise and ComScore who publish industry-standard numbers will be affected. So businesses that rely on those numbers should account for the skew (though, 10 years ago trend seekers relied solely on newspaper and magazine publishing stats to come up with numbers... yikes!). However, I find it hard to believe the article's report that "researchers found that 31 percent of U.S. Internet users erased their first-party cookies over the course of the month." Does 1/3 of the general public even know how a cookie works, never mind how to erase them? Side note -- the person with all the traffic data? Google. Making Analytics free has created such a huge install base, they have an amazing amount of traffic data. Scary what they could figure out.

Not a surprise (2, Insightful)

Kelson (129150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769895)

...though it may be to some people.

Anonymous user stats are always going to be an estimate. Cookies aren't reliable, because people clear them. IP addresses aren't reliable, because some are dynamically generated, some are shared, and people move around.

You can only really know how many users you have if (a) they're registered and (b) they visit the site while logged in. (And even then, people could be sharing accounts -- bugmenot, anyone?)

Personally, I don't think this is a problem, as long as you're willing to look at the estimates for what they are and not treat them as if they were precise.

Hmm... how long before someone claims that Firefox's/Opera's/Safari's stats are inflated because they make it easier to wipe cookies than IE?

just plain wrong (2, Funny)

eneville (745111) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769899)

i think this is very wrong. who counts the number of cookies as bandwidth? the bandwidth is measured at the routers, if it's not, then dont read too much into bandwidth estimates as it's nothing more than a wet finger in the air.

Visitors vs. Unique Visitors..anyone? (1, Insightful)

madsheep (984404) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769911)

But every time you delete cookies, many of the sites you've visited count you as a new visitor next time.
Yea in like 1999 this was true. Don't most websites that actually care about traffic or try to reasonably measure it go off of UNIQUE VISITORS? I think the most basic of webstats programs for 5+ years now know and show the difference. What exactly is the point of all this? Who realistically tracks their users and bases their counts off of cookies? This is absurd. IP address has been the standard for quite some time now.

Re:Visitors vs. Unique Visitors..anyone? (1)

KenAndCorey (581410) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770071)

IP address has been the standard for quite some time now.

This isn't the case. It has to be a combination of IP Address, cookies, time of hits, and even User Agents. They all have their drawbacks, but in combination they can at least improve the accuracy.

Re:Visitors vs. Unique Visitors..anyone? (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770187)

So how do they differentiate between the 600 employees at my company that use a standard browser installation and share an IP address?

Re:Visitors vs. Unique Visitors..anyone? (1)

madsheep (984404) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770265)

Exactly? So how do you distinguish between that company with 2000 users with a standard load browser that does not accept cookies and they all go out a proxy? You can try and track every single user in the world, but most to any given site won't be going out a shared proxy. IP address has, is, and will be the way to go.

Re:Visitors vs. Unique Visitors..anyone? (2, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770335)

Unfortunately IP address doesn't work. NAT can put anywhere from a couple (small home network) to thousands (corporate networks) of individual machines behind a single IP address. The common ISP practice of using dynamic addresses can result in a single machine having anywhere from one address for years at a time to a different address every hour. Most web-statistics companies have abandoned IP addresses as a valid identifier.

Most of them do in fact rely on cookies of one sort or another. Most rely on browser cookies, a few are using Flash or media-player cookies. All of them suffer from the fact that cookie deletion or filtering in the browser corrupts the statistics. Blocking of cookies completely is the easiest form to deal with, the server-side code can check whether cookies were in fact set and simply discard data from browsers that don't accept cookies. Cookie deletion, or forcing cookies to have session lifetimes, is harder to deal with since to the server it looks like the cookies are good but in reality they can't provide information about visitors, only sessions. The worst are one-shot cookies, where the browser will let a new cookie be set but then won't permit it to be modified or removed. The big problem with them is that any test will overlap to some degree with normal cookie behavior, so you end up having to balance how much corruption you're getting relative to how much good data you're throwing out by mistake.

Most web-statistics firms are working to avoid the worst of the problems by moving their machines into the DNS namespace of the sites they're collecting statistics on. That helps get around third-party cookie behavior in browsers, and should work until browsers either start having extensive host-specific block lists or start allowing cookie filtering based on IP address instead of URL hostname.

I always considered the intricacies an interesting puzzle, and wringing every bit of validity possible out of the system a challenge. Management, unfortunately, doesn't want to hear about the intricaties, they just want to hear that there's no problems, everything's fine and the numbers they're giving their customers are perfect. Customers, even more unfortunately, don't want to hear about any problems, they just want to hear that the numbers they're getting are perfect. Sooner or later the cluebat will get applied.

Re:Visitors vs. Unique Visitors..anyone? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770505)

Wouldn't putting thousands of users behind a single IP address via NAT create some problems? From my understanding, when you connect through a NAT, it gives you a port, and anything coming back over that port goes back to your computer. So if you have 5000 users, and there's 65000 ports, that's only 13 ports per user. I guess that not everyone would be connecting all the time, but what is the effective limit of number of people you can have behind a single IP address?

people are self-reporting anyway, so what? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769931)

So now instead of innocent webmasters naively listing more hit counts than they have, they'll just simply lie about their hitcounts to inflate the numbers.

The effect of this is what?

... and (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769935)

Most pointless article ever. Why the fuck do I care about people inflating their web traffic?

If you don't give stores your phone number, they may inflate their customer count.

Re:... and (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770555)

Most pointless article ever. Why the fuck do I care about people inflating their web traffic? If you don't give stores your phone number, they may inflate their customer count.
Give it a break; you had a valid point first time round, second time is excusable, third similar post from the same person (AC or not, it obviously is) just smacks of trying to get attention.

It Probably Evens Out (1)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769945)

Since I block javascript by default, I must be deflating at least some traffic statistics.

Re:It Probably Evens Out (1)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770245)

javascript != cookies

Cookie is sent on request to a web server. Its sent back to a client on response. Disabling javascript doesn't do much with a cookie except obliterate the capability to create a cookie client side via javascript. A lot of apps don't do this. They send you your cookie which you return on subsequent requests.

Inflate the estimate? (1)

dctoastman (995251) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769947)

If I go to the site twice, I go twice. If I delete my cache, I have to re-request everything on the page. In any case, I _AM_ causing more traffic.

It would be like saying you don't count as traffic for streets you've previously driven on.

Umm... So? (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769957)

But every time you delete cookies, many of the sites you've visited count you as a new visitor next time.

I have Firefox clear my cookies on browser close... So I look like a new visitor every time I visit a site.

Perhaps someone would explain to me why I should care about this? The only use I can see for unique visitor counts (other than the trivia value) involves ad revenue - And I aggressively block almost all adverts, so don't care about that, either.

Stats... (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18769973)

Whatever happened to tracking new visitors or original IPs? I'm pretty sure that even the POS hosting company I use has those basic capabilities.

Re:Stats... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770179)

So you have one person visiting several million times from Dulles, Virginia?

Re:Stats... (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770253)

From AOL, or my IP?

Re:Stats... (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770333)

AOL. Proxies like AOL destroy the usefulness of IP. It's one thing to lump all the users from a given company together, but from a large ISP?

Re:Stats... (1)

Mockylock (1087585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770525)

I catch what you're saying. Good call. I was REALLY confused, simply because I work and live in Dulles.

good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18769983)

I don't want you to know who I am dood...

Huh? (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770003)

But every time you delete cookies, many of the sites you've visited count you as a new visitor next time."

Huh? Isn't the entire POINT of cookies pretty much so sites recognize you when you return? Sorry, but this statement wins todays "No Duh" award.

Deleting is meh - have more fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770005)

Open your cookies.txt and make subtle changes to the values. If we can encourage enough people to participate, we will rise above statistical noise to become the bane of online tracking systems.

Obviously doesn't consider p2p, VOIP, video or... (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770017)

seeing as how p2p occupies well over 80% of all internet activity due to its high bandwidth, Deleting cookies would need the amount of information in a typical webpage to increase at least threefold assuming absolutely everyone deletes cookies. given a more logical assumption that about 30% of people delete cookies that increase in internet activity is more like nine times the information. Keep in mind this doesn't take into account other internet activity (VOIP, video, etc) and that most likely, far fewer than 30% of people regularly delete cookies.

server's fault, not the user (1)

brunascle (994197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770073)

it's the server sending the cookies, not the user. in fact, if the user is deleting the cookies then the HTTP request the user sends to the server is using less bandwidth. it's not my fault the server keeps sending me these god damn cookies.

Nobody's fault, nobody's news (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770521)

I don't think it's a question of fault. This is really a warning to webmasters, and to the advertisers who use the statistics.

I'm hard pressed to say how this is news exactly. It's really a press release from a company called comScore. Betcha they've got a service to provide more accurate counts that they'd be happy to sell you.

Well... ok (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770203)

I offset it by not having a spambot trojan in my system, so my addition to the unnecessary traffic is about on par with those who do have one.

Geez... (1)

rlbond86 (874974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770213)

I have a hard time believing that the 1% or so of paranoid people inflate web estimates by 150%.

Re:Geez... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770703)

It depends on the site. Take Google, or any other search engine. If each user does 1 search a day, and there are 1000 users, then over the year there are 365,000 hits. If there are 1% of users who delete cookies, then the 10 users doing 1 page hit a day, end up looking like 3650 users. So, instead of having 1000 users, you now have 990(users with cookies) + 3650 (users without cookies) = 4640 users, when in reality you only have 1000 users. So it doesn't even require 1% of users disabling cookies, or for them to visit every day to increase your traffic figures by 150%

wait (1)

brunascle (994197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770263)

is this article actually implying that web-sites decide whether or not to send you and updated file or assume you have the file cached based on the cookie? no, no sane web developer would do that.

yes, deleting your cookies may cause the server to user more resources (because it will have to add another row to it's "unique visitors" table in the database), but that is not "web traffic".

the only bandwidth i could possibly think of is that which is being used to specifically send the cookie to the client. and that's only going to happen when the client didnt send the cookie to the server. so a web site that requies everyone to have a cookie is going to have 1 cookie transaction for every request+response: either the client sending it or the server sending it.

Fine by me (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770277)

Keep on clearing those cookies, advertisers pay for traffic :) More uniques means more money for me!

No, that's not really correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770283)

No one in analytics worth their salt would take numbers at face value. It's about setting baselines and looking at trending. Getting exact numbers will never be possible based on technical limitations.

Investors? yes. Advertisers? No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770355)

I can see investors being interested in the "new visitors" number, but advertisors are more interested in "page views" or ("unique visits" if they're more sophisticated).

Page views are pretty straightforward and won't be messed around by deleted cookies (they can be manipulated by other means).

Unique visits are usually handled using session cookies expiring after 30 minutes rather than persistent cookies, so clearing your cookies won't invalidate the effects. (And for the cynical, the use of session-cookies-expired-after-30-minutes is more or less an industry standard which the advertisers and ratings outfits insist on so they can compare like-with-like. They are, after all the ones paying the money, they like to get this sort of thing right).

Boo Hoo (0, Flamebait)

Strilanc (1077197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770405)

This is ridiculous, "whine whine, we can't count unique visitors because people are disabling cookies" You couldn't count them before! People don't match up one to one with computers. I can use multiple computers and a computer can be used by multiple people.

If only there were some mathematical field, meant to deal with uncertainties like this.

Every time you delete cookies... (5, Funny)

chinard (555270) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770439)

...god kills a kitten!

Re:Every time you delete cookies... (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770473)

no no no... I think that's for something else!

Waffer thin (0)

Forget4it (530598) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770539)

I never realized that Bit Torrent involved cookies.

Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18770633)

Why the exercise in counting the number of unique visitors instead of total page views? If you're measuring traffic on a bridge, you'd count how many cars cross it per day. Why care if the same guy crossed it 10 times?

That's nothing, think of people use muliple PC's (3, Insightful)

Xenna (37238) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770651)

I use a PC at work.
And another one at home, well even two sometimes.
And a smart phone equipped with a browser.

So I inflate web usage statistics with 100 to 300%?

And then there are people sharing the same PC/account deflating the stats...

All of us who host websites know how unreliable statistics are. Nothing new there...

X.

Yeah, we know (2, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18770959)

As the article from 2005 that I linked to in a comment from yesterday [slashdot.org] , advertisers are going apeshit over people like me who delete cookies and skew their traffic results.


Oh boo hoo, cry me a river. Produce something people want and they'll come back time and again and you won't have to worry about your traffic.

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