Lately I’ve been somewhat perplexed as to why the web site I’ve been working on (a Woo Commerce installation) sometimes loads slowly. It doesn’t do it all the time, but when it does, it’s really bad. We’ve had some problems with our Internet connection, so whenever things slow down I immediately suspect a problem with our ISP, but this time I noticed that all the other web sites I went to seemed to be loading fine.
Naturally, my heart sank. That might mean that my web server had begun to slow down from the sheer number of products I was adding to this store. And if that was the case, after all the work I’d put into this new web store… well, that would be a depressing failure.
Ever the tinkerer, I went to Google’s PageSpeed app to see what the problem might be, if it was, indeed, my web server. One thing that immediately popped out at me was the following recommendation;
Remove the following redirect chain if possible:
I’ve shortened the code, of course (it was pretty long), and have only included the pertinent parts. Namely, scorecardresearch.com and sharethis.com. Holy sheep dip! Could the ShareThis plug-in be infecting my web site with the scorecardresearch virus? Yeah, I know it’s not technically a virus, but it’s something embedded into my web site against my will – what else do you call it?
I disabled the ShareThis plug-in and discovered, much to my pleasure, that my web site immediately ran better. The t-shirt attributes that were taking so long to load were suddenly loading almost instantenously. Most importantly, and most damning, when I reactivated ShareThis, the web site immediately bogged down again. So, I turned it off. Probably for good.
Then I got kind of mad. I wondered if anyone else had this problem, so I did some searches. I wound up on the forums at the ShareThis web site, and found a post where someone asked;
After doing some investigation, it (scorecardresearch) is indeed being pulled from the Sharethis embedded script. I’m a little surprised, but I’d like to know whether ShareThis is aware of the tracking img or not.
A ShareThis representative responded;
The image pixel you are talking about is used by comscore – http://www.comscore.com/. We are using comscore to get an idea about how large our audience is. I assure you that it does not capture key strokes. If you are uncomfortable with that pixel being fired you can opt-out by going to http://sharethis.com/privacy
Opt out? I didn’t “opt-in”, and neither did my users. Okay, maybe it’s implied that if I use their plug-in I agree to whatever they want to embed in the plug-in. But doesn’t that establish a terrible business model? You’re interested in finding out how large your audience is, so you get in bed with a company that’s largely considered the scourge of the Internet, and you embed code that is, basically, crippling your users’ web sites? That’s just stupid.
Here’s the thing. I have a standing policy in regard to computer software, and to web site scripts and plug-ins, as well. Once a company becomes so arrogant that they begin to limit my choices about what can or cannot be done with their software, plug-ins or scripts, or their product starts to interfere with the normal operation of my computer or server, that company no longer gets my business. It’s that simple.
A follow-up question was asked;
I do not want my visitors getting grappled by this stupid little tracker. It bogged down my MAC bigtime. I opted out, but are others who visit my site going to run into this same problem? How can we take advantage of the sharethis toolbar, without this tracking firing on each person who loads the site?
The reply from ShareThis pretty much ensure I would no longer use their plug-in on any of my web sites.
If a user opts-out, he/she will need to optout again in case he/she clears the browser cookies. It’s as per the functionality.
In the opinion of ShareThis, if your users don’t want to be tracked by ScorecardResearch.com, they can “opt-out”. It’s part of their functionality and they’re not going to change it. So if you continue to use ShareThis, your users will just have to “opt-out” of having their activities tracked, and they’ll have to “opt-out” anew any time they delete their cookies in their web browser. And since that discussion thread was over a year old, clearly ShareThis has no intention of doing anything about it.
That’s unacceptable to me. I love the ShareThis plug-in, but I think the time has come to remove it from all of my web sites. I won’t have my users and customers being tracked against their will. Especially not by the Comscore scourge. I don’t care how useful it is for ShareThis to know “how large our audience is”.
I can guarantee ShareThis one thing. They’ve made sure that their audience will be shrinking.
In closing, all I’ll say, and this is directed to the Internet community at large and Comscore in particular, is that I find the activities of Comscore and ScorecardResearch to be unacceptable. Their code is embedded, like a virus, in web sites against the wishes of their owners, and I won’t put up with it. At least not on my web sites. And if ShareThis and other companies want to willingly engage in the spreading of this marketing virus, they deserve to wind up on the dustbin of history.
Most of us who pay attention have heard of Comscore and ScorecardResearch. They’ve been trying to track all of us for years, and against our wishes. The only reason Comscore gets away with their activities is because most people don’t know about them. You ask anyone how they would feel about knowing that a company is attempting to track their every move on the Internet and it quickly becomes abundantly clear why the ScorecardResearch code slithers in like a snake.
I would recommend that if you use the ShareThis plug-in that you deactivate it immediately. ShareThis has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of honoring our privacy. It’s fine if ShareThis wants to keep track of the web sites where their plug-in is installed, but it’s something else entirely to attempt to track the activities of the users of those web sites.