Hit more, view less on Safari

How Safari 4 gives the impression people are paying you more attention than might actually be the case.

Safari (the Apple web browser) has a great feature called Top Sites. It creates a grid view of webs sites you select, or visit most often, and helpfully shows a large icon of how they currently look, and indicates clearly which ones have been updated since you last checked.

It’s a great, quick and easy to use function that means you don’t have to keep checking sites manually for updates. But it has a blindingly obvious knock on effect that I’d idly wondered about when I first starting using it, and then forgot about. Forgot about until I started this blog.

I’d noticed when I first started setting the site up that, unless the one person I’d mentioned it to at the time was obsessively checking back for updates, Blog Stats was registering an implausibly high amount of hits. WordPress doesn’t count your own visits to your site, at least not while you’re logged in, and not from the browser you’re logged in on.

For various reasons, I don’t actually use Safari for wordpress (I currently tend to run three web browsers at the same time, Safari, Firefox, and I’m trying out Opera with this site), and even if I did, I wouldn’t be logged in all the time. Occasionally I’d check the site in one of the other browsers, just to see differences in how it renders.

One or two hits could be explained by checking the differences, but not this many. Then I noticed the site had crept into my Top Sites selection and suddenly it all made sense. Safari has no magically surreptitious way of checking what a website looks like without registering as a hit. It just grabs the whole page from all the sites as if it was showing them normally. Every time I clicked on the Top Sites icon, or even just opened a new window, I (and everyone in my selection) was getting a hit. Oops.

For some, page views are important, either personally, or as some manner of revenue generation. The Top Sites feature can’t help but have a distorting effect on this, and while the market share of Safari among browsers is tiny (around 4% in January 2010 from what I can tell), the amount of unwitting background hits from each user could be huge. So I can’t help but feel a bit guilty for the sudden, confusing and seemingly inexplicable rise in attention some of the small, personal blogs I follow got. Sorry.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Browsers, Clean this up when you get the chance, Ramble

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