Note: This is a public service announcement for bloggers and those reading blogs. This is not an economic post, nonetheless it may concern you. If you are using Sitemeter (or even reading blogs that use Sitemeter) this post does pertain to you.

I recently started receiving comments and emails about performance degradations and lockup issues while viewing my blog. Some of my readers had huge slowdowns, and others complete lockups, especially under IE6. Most had nothing but minor delays, and some (myself) experienced no perceptible delays which makes testing for me even more difficult.

A tip of the hat goes to Kevin at View From Silicon Valley who was reading comments on my blog and did some unasked for but much appreciated testing on his own accord and traced the problem to toxic cookies from SpecificClick.

Armed with information about SpecificClick, a Google search led me to Sitemeter and a very important post from Michael Sync called Things you should know before using Sitemeter.

It’s so sad for me to hear that SiteMeter, a well-known web stats providers, is pushing specificclick tracking and advertising cookies on to visitors of sites using their service.

….
We were shocked to discover just today that another well known stats provider is allowing up to 9 cookies to be installed in the browser of every visitor that hits one of their member websites. This means that the provider is making money by transmitting data on you and your visitors to a third party advertiser. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, the cookies are causing the member websites to load very slowly too.

Selling Out To Spyware

Yes, it has been confirmed, Sitemeter has apparently sold out to Spyware.

Here is the reply from SiteMeter.

Hello,
Thanks for your email.

The cookie you are seeing is from a trusted partner who we are working with to provide more intelligence to you about your visitors. In the past few days we’ve begun beta testing this cookie.

Over the next few months we will be rolling out enhancements to our service that will offer you more information about your users like their other content interests and demographics (a la Quantcast). In addition this cookie will allow us to offer other new useful features in the future, including tracking Unique Visitors, Heat Mapping etc.

We believe that this new information along with our current services we already provide will be of great benefit to our users. Keep watching our page for announcements regarding these upgrades and changes. We would also ask that you use discretion in sharing this information. We are trying not to show our hand to our competitors.

If you would rather not participate in this process we can offer you a couple options –

1 – If you replace your current Java code with the standard HTML Sitemeter code the cookie will no longer be issued.
2 – We can move you to a new server that will be restricted from the cookie process.

If you would like to move to the restricted server please let us know and we will create a new FREE upgraded account for you. We won’t be able to transfer any historical data, but you will still be able to log into your old account and view your old account stats.

Thanks,
The Sitemeter Team

I exercised option number 3: Removing Sitemeter from my blog and switching to StatCounter. Even if you are just reading blogs, you might want to get rid of the cookies related to SpecificClick. You should not have to delete all cookies

Removing Parasitic Cookies

Instructions in IE6

Firefox Instructions:
Click Tools>Options>Privacy>Show Cookies>

Most of those reporting delays are now saying things are better.

Here is note from Kevin, the person who initially pointed me in the right direction.

Mish:

Your site seems to load fine now. None of the specifcclick cookies pops up. (I only use IE6, figuring if my site works on that, it will work on pretty much anything.)

If you get something other than a canned “we’ll remove you if you ask” response from sitemeter, I’ll be interested to hear about it.

Good luck,
Kevin

Thanks to Kevin at View From Silicon Valley, Michael Sync, StatCounter, WatchingTheHerd, Eric Odom, Lev at JS-Kit and everyone else who helped me directly or indirectly solve this problem. Thanks to everyone for your patience.

Mike Shedlock / Mish/