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URL Tracking

Is there a reliable way for a Web application to track the sites a user visits during a browser session, assuming that:

a) The Web app itself is the starting point of the browsing session.
b) The user has consented to the tracking and turned off any software/features that would prevent such tracking.

How would you do it?
Not 100% About This Stuff
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
 
 
Probably.

About 2 hours ago, I saw what the results of deploying http://hitbox.com on their site.  It was AMAZING.  I'm not affiliated with them in ANY way, but the elegance and expertise of what they are doing is stunning.
KC Send private email
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
 
 
For the Java site I develop we use something called Clickstream which is available from http://www.opensymphony.com/clickstream/.

I don't know much about it as I personally didn't do the integration but I know it didn't take very long and that we are very impressed with the results.
Andrew Langrick Send private email
Friday, April 08, 2005
 
 
SiteCatalyst? Urchin?
Jilles Oldenbeuving Send private email
Saturday, April 09, 2005
 
 
"Is there a reliable way for a Web application to track the sites a user visits during a browser session?"

No, there is no _reliable_ way for a Web application to track the sites a user visits during a browser session.

It *may* be possible to have unreliable tracking using a Javascript application. It would be unreliable because the tracking code would be lost anytime the user manually typed in a URL or went to a bookmark. Plus, you might run afoul of cross-site scripting permissions which would prevent the application from running entirely.

The only effective, reliable way to track *every* site a user visits is to use a browser plugin. The Google plugin, for example, can be used by Google to track every site a user visits (see http://www.google.com/support/toolbar/?quick=privacy for more info).

Clickstream, Urchin and the other programs mentioned are effective for tracking users within a single site, but, in general, can't be used to track users across sites.

In theory, it would be possible for a web analytics firm like Clickstream or Urchin to combine its data with the tracking information available from ad networks like Doubleclick to provide *some* of the other sites a user visited when they visited your site [as a side note, I wonder if any web analytics firms are doing this--great value-add that can be sold on a subscription basis; although the privacy implications are scary]. The limitation here is that the user would have to a) either be accepting cookies or use a cookieless tracking alternative (like using IDs stored in Flash) and b) be visiting a site that displays ads using one of the networks that the web analytics program is subscribing to.

So, in short, unless you are a large Internet company with lots and lots of extra development resources, no, it's not possible to track every site a user visits, even if they do agree to the tracking.
Trevor Lohrbeer Send private email
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
 
 
Actually, I'm in the process of developing a tracking application that can keep track of a single user's navigational activity across multiple domains (without any special browser plugins). Prelimiary tests are promising, and I'm pretty sure I can identify a unique user--with greater than 99% accuracy--even when the user has disabled (or recently cleared) cookies.

I'm very excited about it.
Benji Smith Send private email
Friday, April 22, 2005
 
 
"Actually, I'm in the process of developing a tracking application that can keep track of a single user's navigational activity across multiple domains (without any special browser plugins)."

That doesn't sound like a particularly good thing, and I'm sure the nice folks at Mozilla would see it to be in their best interests to prevent such tracking. Not to mention users, who tend to be a little funny when it comes to their privacy.
Michael Scovetta Send private email
Monday, April 25, 2005
 
 

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