April 6, 2009

WTF, StumbleUpon?

StumbleUpon is a web service I use for occasional amusement - you register your "interests" and it shows you pseudo-random allegedly-related web pages. There's even a toolbar, which I was silly enough to install for those long evenings when there's nothing on the television and the clients aren't screaming loud enough to get my attention.

Unfortunately it just stopped being funny. I wanted to search my browser history for a specific page, and suddenly I see hundreds of entries, which I am absolutely sure are not a part of my browsing history (I would know if I had seen this page before), listed as "refer.php" whose content reads (typically) "One of our members added your page to the Humor topic on StumbleUpon." Here's a typical example.

So until I get an explanation telling me that either it's a Firefox bug (and we all know how rare those are) or StumbleUpon publicly grovel to get me back they are out, and the toolbar is history, and I won't be going back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe the toolbar sends you to that page which then redirects you on to whichever URL it's talking about. That way a website owner browsing his logs for referrers would see that page listed for every StumbleUpon user who landed on his site (unless you're like me and use RefControl set to forge a referrer for any 3rd-party request) and might follow it back and see the marketing spiel.

Is each StumbleUpon-ed website in your history immediately preceded by one of these refer.php pages? Not sure how it knows to redirect people hitting it as part of the toolbar process while still showing a marketing spiel to you when you return/somebody comes from elsewhere, but maybe the toolbar sets a session cookie or something before calling the page. If they made the page's logic just do a straight, content-less, HTTP redirect when that cookie is present, you wouldn't ever see that page when being directed to a site by the toolbar, just see the URL flash in the location bar.