google prefetching links


Via Cameo Wood, I found out why it is that I'm occasionally getting unexpected requests to set a cookie for other sites when I search in Google--it's because Google is now using the "pre-fetch" functionality in some browsers (like Firefox) to automatically load the first result in your search in the background, whether or not you click on the link.

This is annoying for several reasons. First of all, if your company is monitoring where you go on the net, it makes it look like you've gone to that page--the page is in your cache, the cookies are set on your computer, etc. Second of all, it messes up the logs on that site's server, by making it look like you went to their site from a Google search even if you didn't click on the link.

The Google FAQ on this "feature" does tell you how to disable it in Firefox or Mozilla:

  1. Type "about:config" the address bar.
  2. Scroll down to the setting "network.prefetch-next" and set the value to "False".


Sure there are drawbacks, but there are also significant benefits, not only to the browing experience but also individual privacy. More on my blog.

Can you show me part of messed logs? Every week I'm checking logs of my site but did not notice any mess. Please show me example, if its possible. Thanks

Alexei, I don't mean that the logs are corrupted. I mean that they show accesses that aren't really an accurate reflection of who's visiting your site.

If I do a search where your site comes up first in the Google results, but don't click on the link, your logs will still show me as a visitor because of Google's pre-fetching. That means you've got inaccurate information in your logs, indicating more visitors than actually viewed the page.

Oh, i see now. Thank you for your explanation Liz.

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on April 4, 2005 11:53 AM.

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