Death of the Cookie

by Josh Anderson 52 replies
Here is an interesting read on IE8:

Microsoft's newest browser may help privacy - Internet - MSNBC.com

It sounds like the default settings or the emphasis on privacy protection may have a major impact on tracking and even cookie based referrals.

Anyone who is not currently using both cookie and IP tracking for running their affiliate program should be taking a serious look at whether their own affiliate software is going to stand up against the new era of browser privacy security settings.

I moved my own network to both IP and cookie based combination long ago because cookies are simply not reliable as the only means of tracking referrals from affiliates. Additionally they are targeted by affiliate thieves and adware.

Adding IP based tracking on top of cookie based tracking to my affiliate program is one of the smartest and best things I ever did. Of course affiliates are the ones who benefit... but it also means higher conversion rates for affiliates because referrals are tracked correctly which means more loyalty.

In other browser news look for a new opensource browser to hit the market from Google:

Google plans to launch Web browser - Internet - MSNBC.com

Looks like things will be getting pretty interesting in the browser market soon... as well as for developers and ecommerce providers.
#main internet marketing discussion forum #cookie #death
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  • Profile picture of the author JayXtreme
    Apparently Firefox has similar plans for the future too...

    O well... all the more reason to build a list, no?...and IP tracking is smooth as it comes....you can't do better than IP conversions..

    Peace

    Jay
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  • Profile picture of the author bgmacaw
    I think it may be a bit overblown.

    At one time, I had a bunch of ad blockers, site blockers and cookie blockers running. However, when sites would load properly, when I couldn't place orders on many popular ecommerce sites, couldn't watch videos and so forth I started turning them off until I have very few running now.

    Killing cookies and other tracking methods prevents too many sites from working right. Average Joes may like getting rid of ads but they'll be pissed at Microsoft when they can't use IE to order the latest video game or gadget.
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    • Profile picture of the author Ephrils
      I was actually thinking Cookie Monster with this thread and his whole "good eating" vegetable thing. You know, that debacle.

      This one is important. Looks like Clickbank is behind the times again.
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    • Profile picture of the author ripsnorta2
      Originally Posted by bgmacaw View Post

      ...
      Killing cookies and other tracking methods prevents too many sites from working right. Average Joes may like getting rid of ads but they'll be pissed at Microsoft when they can't use IE to order the latest video game or gadget.
      Or stay logged in to their favorite forums.

      BTW, doesn't Microsoft use cookies extensively throughout their websites? Won't they be breaking their own websites, or will IE8 automatically recognise MS cookies regardless of the browser settings?
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    • Profile picture of the author braver55b
      Originally Posted by bgmacaw View Post

      I think it may be a bit overblown.

      At one time, I had a bunch of ad blockers, site blockers and cookie blockers running. However, when sites would load properly, when I couldn't place orders on many popular ecommerce sites, couldn't watch videos and so forth I started turning them off until I have very few running now.

      Killing cookies and other tracking methods prevents too many sites from working right. Average Joes may like getting rid of ads but they'll be pissed at Microsoft when they can't use IE to order the latest video game or gadget.
      You're right about that, some sites require cookies to be enabled in order to use the site.

      That google browser better not have spyware of any kind or it won't go anywhere.
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  • Profile picture of the author analyzed
    It is good to know where browsers are heading in terms of security. I can see cookie based sites and affiliate programs possibly changing up their styles to strictly IP tracking or something completely new .... lots of potential here!
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    I hate to say it Josh, but this is NOT news, although your advice is still good and valid! Everyone, INCLUDING people ON THIS FORUM, has been trying to get rid of cookies for a LONG time!

    People use things like cookie stuffers!(They LOVE cookies, but make all others SCREAM to provide a solution!) OTHERS asking people to DELETE ALL COOKIES!(They love cookies, but INVALIDATE THEM as a viable method.) M/S with XP SP2 made third party cookies less useful and reliable. Anything they do NOW should be anticipated.

    It is things like this that make you appreciate things like clickbank showing the credited affiliate.

    Chris Lockwood,

    You're RIGHT! The odds of TWO people having the SAME IP and visiting the same website in the same hour, however, are well over 1 million to 1! Most sites, and ALL decent tracking software, count all hits coming from the same IP within a 20-30minute span as a SINGLE visit.

    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author SirHandsome
      Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

      Chris Lockwood,

      You're RIGHT! The odds of TWO people having the SAME IP and visiting the same website in the same hour, however, are well over 1 million to 1! Most sites, and ALL decent tracking software, count all hits coming from the same IP within a 20-30minute span as a SINGLE visit.

      Steve
      thats not the problem. the problem is that affiliates won't get credit for the visitor who returns to buy later if their IP has changed
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      • Profile picture of the author seasoned
        Originally Posted by SirHandsome View Post

        thats not the problem. the problem is that affiliates won't get credit for the visitor who returns to buy later if their IP has changed

        You misunderstand! The IP helps prevent cookie fraud, and protect against times when the cookie can't be created. If you want to protect OTHER things, there are only a few things you can do....

        1. Create a trojan(BAD!)
        2. Send a client over(GOOD LUCK!) Some HAVE managed to do this, but even THAT relies on cookies and IPs originally.
        3. Change the industry(GOOD LUCK!)
        4. Replace the browser(GOOD LUCK!)

        So the cookie is STILL the best thing going right now, which is why everyone uses them. The IP system just helps to patch areas where the cookie won't work or can be easily defeated.

        Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author Josh Anderson
      I think it may be a bit overblown.
      With all the affiliate tracking systems that only rely on cookies and with IE8 focusing one of their main USP on eliminating cookies as a primary feature? You have got to either be disconnected from any form of affiliate marketing or kidding.

      I hate to say it Josh, but this is NOT news, although your advice is still good and valid! Everyone, INCLUDING people ON THIS FORUM, has been trying to get rid of cookies for a LONG time!
      Yep you and I both know it is not news. I integrated a solution to this issue for my affiliates with IP and cookie based tracking combination a couple years ago. However the majority of scripts being used by warriors for their affiliate programs and by their affiliates rely only on cookies for tracking.

      You've been able to turn off cookies for ages. Most people don't simply because it's not a default setting, and most people are too willfully ignorant to ever bother to learn how to use a computer... Use, not turn on and surf the web.
      Yes you are right... affiliates have been loosing commissions due to this for years. This is why I moved to both IP and cookie tracking.

      This "new feature" may well be the death of affiliate marketing for those of you that are pushing referral driven programs.
      That is the only reason I am posting about it... the issue is old but the article seemed to say that IE8 will be pushing users to disable cookies by default.

      "How does IP tracking work, considering that many people have a different IP each time they get online?"
      In the case of my system that is why we use a combination of both ip and cookie based tracking.

      The thing we all need to be watching out for is whether the IE8 will impact affiliate marketers referring traffic to companies that are not prepared and who are relying only on cookie based tracking.

      This is all speculation for now but when IE8 hits the market it could spell a dramatic increase in lost referrals because of inaccurate tracking for those using systems that have not adapted... of course only the future will tell for sure but it is something that all affiliate program managers and affiliates need to think about.

      This has been a problem for years which is precisely why I set out to solve it years ago... but now it looks like it will be an even bigger emphasis in internet privacy and security features with the new IE8 and IE still hold the majority of the browser market.
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      • Profile picture of the author bgmacaw
        Originally Posted by Josh Anderson View Post

        With all the affiliate tracking systems that only rely on cookies and with IE8 focusing one of their main USP on eliminating cookies as a primary feature? You have got to either be disconnected from any form of affiliate marketing or kidding.
        I also mentioned why I thought it was overblown, mainly that Joe/Jane Sixpack will see a browser that doesn't work with cookies as 'broken'. Pretty soon it evolves into a PC vs Mac commercial and Microsoft takes another hit for being out of touch and implementing security in a bad way, just like they did with Vista.
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        • Profile picture of the author Louis Raven
          Thanks for the link Josh,

          I hate reading your posts as they make me face the reality that nothing stays the same and marketing online is never a "set & forget" business

          How does Clickbank track affiliate clients, IP and Cookies or just Cookies?

          Louis
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          • Profile picture of the author Headhunting55
            My God, Josh....

            You almost gave me a Heart attack.

            I saw your headline and thought Mrs. Fields my be closing down.....
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          • Profile picture of the author Michael Chris
            Originally Posted by roulettered56 View Post

            How does Clickbank track affiliate clients, IP and Cookies or just Cookies?
            They track using dough... it pre-dated cookies. When cookies go by the way side, they will upgrade to using cookies and when IPs become irrelevant, they will upgrade to IPs.

            Just kidding... anyone who has been observing CB for years will get the humor in how quickly (or not) they upgrade.

            I am not sure, but I don't think they use IPs. The easy way to test is to turn off cookies and try going through a hoplink and see if the affiliate is detected on the checkout page. If they do use IPs, I don't think they tell you... last I checked they have some kind "proprietary technology" statement where they basically tell you they are NOT going to tell your their system details.

            Back to the regular topic...

            If you want to have back ups on your backups, then go for this...

            Cookies

            IPs

            Session tags (appended to every internal link dynamically)

            Sort them out on the server side and track accordingly.

            -Michael
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            • Profile picture of the author Chris Monty
              This web browser battle is going to be a sight to see. Both IE8 and Chrome have some very unique privacy features.

              Still, IE8 is about as secure as my grandmother's open front door and you KNOW Google is watching your every move in Chrome.

              For now, I'm sticking with Firefox.
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          • Profile picture of the author samstephens
            Clickbank use other methods as well, not just cookies to track their affiliate program:

            FAQ Hoplink - ClickBank

            IP address tracking is much more inaccurate thank cookie tracking. As a few people have said, IP addresses change all the time.

            Cookies for Clickbank last for 60 days. How many IP address changes will a dial-up use have during that time? Probably at least 120.

            Some will overlap, but remember that generally speaking dial-up uses will be given a new IP address every time they logon to the internet.

            This is also the case with some broadband services as well.

            If I turn my broadband modem off for a little while, when I turn it back on again I'll have a new IP address.


            Cookies are a very valuable part of internet programming, and as much as they have their weaknesses, they're still a lot more reliable that IP address tracking.

            Ultimately you'll want to offer multiple tracking methods, not just one or the other.

            cheers
            Sam
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Sandquist
    hmmm, maybe we should start posting examples of affiliate management software/services that use a combination of IP and cookie tracking, (like Josh's Nanacast.com) so people can plan ahead, if the need to switch arises.

    I'm pretty sure that Infusionsoft.com does. Can anyone confirm that?
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    • Profile picture of the author Josh Anderson
      IP address tracking is much more inaccurate thank cookie tracking. As a few people have said, IP addresses change all the time.
      And the combination of IP and cookie based tracking is much more reliable than any other method I know of

      Which is exactly what I am suggesting in this thread. Not "one or the other."

      That's what I use for my affiliate system and its great for affiliates... especially since the traditional method that affiliate thieves rely on of clearing their browser cookie cache and clicking on their own affiliate link is dealt a good blow.
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      • Profile picture of the author John Ritz
        Microsoft's own .NET sites would stop working, because it relies on session variables (i.e. session cookies).

        So many online apps use cookies now, that to turn off cookies by default would be like turning off images by default. It'll make many sites unusable, and customers of MS will quickly find an alternative browser that works again with the sites they love.

        Microsoft used to be able to bully web developers and such, but they're quickly losing ground to FF, and I suspect Google's Chrome in the near future.

        Still, Microsoft should never be underestimated, and I'm sure they have a plan for that, too.

        But the death of (insert your favorite buzzword here) is almost always greatly exaggerated.

        My opinion at this point, but we'll see how it all fleshes out.
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        • Profile picture of the author Josh Anderson
          "Still, Microsoft should never be underestimated"
          With a lion's share of market share you'd have to be nuts to underestimate their importance.

          They are and always will be the dominate player as long as they continue to virtually monopolize the PC market with their operating system.

          http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp
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          • Profile picture of the author John Ritz
            I agree, but even MS, no ESPECIALLY MS, understand how websites work and the importance of cookies therein.

            To kill it all would be a dumb move on their part. I don't think they would do that. But they've done dumb things before, so who knows!
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            • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
              The new "private" browsing modes IE8 and Chrome have don't turn off cookies. They don't break Microsoft's site or any other site.

              They just automatically clear cookies (and delete browsing history from that session) when you close the window.

              So all the websites that rely on cookies still work, but your affiliate links aren't going to be tracked past the end of that browsing session. If they come back two days later and buy, that cookie you set is gone.

              There's a second privacy feature IE8 offers that automatically blocks cookies from a domain if it sets a cookie from 8 or more sites. That's going to mess up Google Analytics and other trackers that set cookies from many sites. And it could also interfere with something like Clickbank where one domain is setting cookies for many sites again.

              Microsoft isn't stupid, come on, they have 60,000 programmers working over there, they aren't going to snap their fingers and throw away cookies without anyone noticing. That's not the plan, and it seems no one actually tried the browser to find that out.
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            • Profile picture of the author GarrieWilson
              Its sounds more to me like they are just taking the blocking of 3rd party cookies a step further then they do now.

              Now, they block 3rd party cookies w/out a p3p policy by default. And based on what the article says, it will be blocking 3rd party cookies totally by default.

              JFYI: CB uses 1st party cookies.

              We could start using flash cookies.
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              • Profile picture of the author John Ritz
                You're right, Dan. I didn't know that.

                So I guess the tons of forums and membership sites I belong to where I specify "remember me" (like Yahoo and even MSN, for example) won't necessarily break, but my darn &%$#* browser will keep forgetting my login info!

                Add to that any apps that rely on cookies to remember my preferences ABOVE and BEYOND basic login info.

                I imagine MS will give me a choice to the sites I want to remember info, so that's their out. But they're still putting more burden on the user to make these decisions, and you know what happens when that happens.
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                • Profile picture of the author samstephens
                  Oh, well if it's only 3rd party cookies then no big deal...

                  Major (and probably the majority of minor) affiliate programs use 1st party cookies.



                  And the combination of IP and cookie based tracking is much more reliable than any other method I know of

                  Which is exactly what I am suggesting in this thread. Not "one or the other."
                  And I agree completely

                  cheers
                  Sam
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                • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
                  Originally Posted by John Ritz View Post

                  I imagine MS will give me a choice to the sites I want to remember info, so that's their out. But they're still putting more burden on the user to make these decisions, and you know what happens when that happens.
                  You have to explicitly put the browser in "inprivate" mode. It's not the default. The default behavior of IE8 is essentially the same as IE6, IE7, and every other browser.

                  Just like Chrome, you have to go to the file menu and choose "Launch InPrivate Window" or right click a link and do "Open in InPrivate Window" to start a private session where cookies and history are automatically deleted when you close the window.

                  Stop freaking out, everyone
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            • Profile picture of the author seasoned
              Originally Posted by John Ritz View Post

              I agree, but even MS, no ESPECIALLY MS, understand how websites work and the importance of cookies therein.

              To kill it all would be a dumb move on their part. I don't think they would do that. But they've done dumb things before, so who knows!


              **************************BULL******************** **!!!!!!! MS does NOT know, or care, about the importance of cookies! So WHEN will they start disabling cookies, as far as what I can say for certain?????? October 2006! And NOPE, that is NOT a typo! They ALREADY DID IT! in IE7! Third party framed sites with no proper PPP were not allowed to create cookies BY DEFAULT! So I can say I know, because it HAS happened! As I said, it is not news. Josh is simply talking about MORE options added in IE8!

              And IP addresses AREN'T good for long term tracking. I have said that for a long time. THAT is what COOKIES are for. IPs CAN handle SHORT TERM tracking, and AUGMENT cookies.

              Steve
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          • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
            "InPrivate Blocking" is that feature I mentioned two posts of mine up where domains that set cookies across many sites can be blocked automatically... yes, that's what we do have to worry about. The private browsing feature isn't so much.

            My web stats service also publishes a monthly report on browser market share based on a sample of 14,000 sites: W3Counter - Global Web Stats
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            • Profile picture of the author Josh Anderson
              And those stats are only for people interested in webdesign, as they show w3schools' stats. Among the "normal" web users, IE is at about 75%:

              Market share for browsers, operating systems and search engines

              Another interesting aspect is that, according to the MSNBC article, IE8's InPrivateBlocking mode can block third party ads on a website. That could impact the advertizing market pretty badly in the long run.

              Tom
              At first I posted the 75% market share... but then I thought I would post the w3schools for those who love to hate IE and deny its position as King of browser market share would not jump on me ;-)

              Its market relative though... my own market is significantly higher in the FF use than the general market.
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              • Profile picture of the author nvs74191
                I think a majority of people who use the internet don't mess around under the hood of their browsers, so we may not be affected so much as we all imagine.
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  • Profile picture of the author oic800
    I don't know if cookies are dying, but I gotta tellya, I read that article about Google Chrome and downloaded it...man it's fast!
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    • Profile picture of the author Ted Kopelli
      I have to agree. It's like I am on a dedicated T1 - lightning fast.

      Now if Chrome could access my Roboform and IE passwords, I would use it alot more.

      If Google does capitalize the market and crush IE as anticipated, it would definitely change the world. How much more cumbersome can they make IE. I am constantly crashing windows and when one tab hangs all my browser windows crash. Thank god for Task Manager or my computer would be useless half the day.

      On the other hand FF with all it's updates is really getting slower than IE.

      Chrome has my vote and I do believe cookies are here to stay. Those IE8 users wil migrate to Chrome and love it.

      Ted
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      • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
        Originally Posted by Ted Kopelli View Post

        I am constantly crashing windows and when one tab hangs all my browser windows crash.
        IE8 puts tabs in a separate process so that if one crashes, the whole browser doesn't.

        Google copied that feature. And most every feature in their browser, since it's not really their browser. It's just a minimal UI on top of some Firefox code and the WebKit rendering engine Apple made for Safari.
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    • Profile picture of the author seasoned
      Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall View Post

      I do not really promote products (other than my own), but I do have a few affiliates. I think that I'll have to stop relying on other scripts & services and finish up on my own script...

      There are alternatives to IP and cookie tracking:

      Replicating web pages.
      WRONG! The user could simply go to the main page, and you lose SEO ability! BESIDES, SOME sites do that by using the REFERRING IP! That is just as good, and less obvious.

      Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall View Post

      or

      Requiring a visitor to enter a "promo code" on your website in order to purchase. Now, you can remove part of the inconvenience factor for the visitor by selling your product at a higher price to the public, and giving your affiliates a lower price to offer their referrals.
      AGAIN, no way to revisit!

      Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall View Post

      If you wanted to get creative, you could have an affiliate program that used Cookie tracking, IP address tracking and offer the "promocode" option as a failsafe in case the other methods didn't pan out.
      That's actually an old idea, but the promo code is the least worth while.

      Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall View Post

      Maybe I should stop talking about it and finish up that script...


      For right this moment though, it seems that first party cookies are ok.
      Their wouldn't be any sense in stopping first party, though people always could! Still, that doesn't really help the referrer.
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      • Profile picture of the author Paul Buckley
        Reading this thread has given me the munchies. Where are my cookies?
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      • Profile picture of the author Josh Anderson
        The key is to affect the visitor's experience as little as possible.

        You want to provide increased reliability for affiliate tracking while not adding any extra steps or confusion for the visitor...

        For that reason requiring someone to enter a "code" is out.

        Replicating web pages is unnecessary as long as you can use a combination of first party cookies and IP tracking.

        We also use sessions but only for purposes of delivering customized content to website visitors and affiliates that are publisher specific so that the publisher can customize the experience of affiliates and membership site visitors while using our network.
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        • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
          Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall

          I'm sure this has to make sense to somebody.
          It does, thanks for discussing it

          Just as an aside, it's a good idea to pair IP addresses with user agents. Otherwise you can end up with whole networks of people (like MSN dialup users all coming from the same proxy IP) being counted as referred sales when they're actually new visitors. User agents are unique enough to filter that kind of thing down a lot while still tracking the right person without cookies.
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          • Profile picture of the author seasoned
            Originally Posted by Dan Grossman View Post

            It does, thanks for discussing it

            Just as an aside, it's a good idea to pair IP addresses with user agents. Otherwise you can end up with whole networks of people (like MSN dialup users all coming from the same proxy IP) being counted as referred sales when they're actually new visitors. User agents are unique enough to filter that kind of thing down a lot while still tracking the right person without cookies.
            That is ALSO inaccurate! Some agents can be changed, and there are OTHER problems! Sometimes I have used THREE browsers on ONE site! WHY!?!?!? Well, I might use IE that FAILS, and crashes, I may then use firefox which might not have a plugin, and I go to opera. I've probably done that sort of thing 10 times. I may have used 2 DOZENS!!!!!

            Steve
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            • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
              Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

              That is ALSO inaccurate! Some agents can be changed, and there are OTHER problems! Sometimes I have used THREE browsers on ONE site! WHY!?!?!? Well, I might use IE that FAILS, and crashes, I may then use firefox which might not have a plugin, and I go to opera. I've probably done that sort of thing 10 times. I may have used 2 DOZENS!!!!!

              Steve
              Do you need to make every other word CAPITALIZED and followed by multiple punctuation?

              It's a way to help make IP-based tracking more accurate than just sending a commission to everyone with a matching IP. That's all. And 99% of the time someone's user agent won't change between visits, you've listed fringe cases. And I'm not just guessing, I run W3Counter, where I can compare these things based on billions of visits to over 14,000 websites recorded over the past 4 years.
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              • I would warn people who are thinking about downloading IE 8 Beta. It crashed my husband's computer. I told him to talk to our friend Rick, who's really good with computers. (Well, my husband's good, too...but Rick has been a geek the entire time I've known him) Right after my husband mentioned IE 8, Rick knew exactly what he was going to tell him. Apparently, this is a common problem with IE 8 Beta. Just so you know.
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              • Profile picture of the author seasoned
                Originally Posted by Dan Grossman View Post

                Do you need to make every other word CAPITALIZED and followed by multiple punctuation?

                It's a way to help make IP-based tracking more accurate than just sending a commission to everyone with a matching IP. That's all. And 99% of the time someone's user agent won't change between visits, you've listed fringe cases. And I'm not just guessing, I run W3Counter, where I can compare these things based on billions of visits to over 14,000 websites recorded over the past 4 years.
                OK, fringe cases. I never claimed I did that all the time. Though some MAY, and may even do it simply to frustrate affiliate crediting.(They may not even be thinking about the agent info, but do it to invalidate the cookies. They usually don't follow different browsers) Some people DO do that. As for the captitalizaton? Let's call it habit and emphasis. I'm sorry. Call it a style!

                Steve
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      • Profile picture of the author seasoned
        Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall View Post

        You are assuming too many things here and misunderstanding my point, that's partially my fault because I didn't go into every tiny detail.

        Replicating web pages do not have to impact a website's SEO ability. You can easily noindex/nofollow the pages out - they are affiliate pages, for marketing, not for SEO or overall visibility.
        I think most people here will tell you I know all that stuff. The fact is that they are different pages, and will be treated as different pages often. noindex further ensures that will happen. nofollow technically will put the final nail in that coffin.

        Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall View Post

        Session IDs, cookie tracking and IP address tracking can be implemented with the replicated web page -taking every necessary precaution to ensure that the proper individual receives credit for the sale. If the person scrubs the affiliate page, the affiliate can likely still receive credit for the sale.
        YEP, but you said REPLACE cookies!

        Originally Posted by Rob Ferrall View Post

        I'm not saying remove the first party cookie - that would be absolutely moronic. I'm offering up alternatives that could work in the event that things progress further than they are regarding browser security. My suggestions are meant to compliment the status quo, not replace it.
        But if you don't replace it, it is not used instead, but to augment.
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