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Netscape 4.7 and Cookie Amnesia
multiple windows bring out the bugs

 6:28 am on Mar 2, 2001 (gmt 0)

I've just zeroed in on a strange browser bug. Netscape 4.7 shows this sporadic behavior when I open multiple windows -- sometimes (but not always) the windows that were opened later in the session don't do the job of tapping my cookie jar -- and my preferences, etc. get forgotten.

I first noticed this because I set my preference on Google to show 100 results per page -- but all of a sudden I was seeing the default ten. Then I realized that I had another Google window open that showed the 100. Then later I was visiting Amazon and they forgot my name!

All along I thought that Brett had something buggy in his cookie code here, because I would be logged in and all of a sudden get a screen that called me "Guest".

There are at least three different ways that multiple windows get opened. One is the kind I decide to open, directly from the browser by choosing file/New/Navigator Window. Then there are the child windows spawned by target="_top". Last, there is javascript.

I think it's the window opened with target="_top" that gets Cookie Amnesia, because there are other bugs in new windows opened that way as well -- like they have sporadic trouble actually sending a request to the server. I'm already used to clicking on such links several times in order to get the page to load.

This cookie thing could impact design of a website if you are tracking user sessions, preferences, shopping carts, etc.



 4:52 pm on Mar 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

>All along I thought that Brett had something
>buggy in his cookie code here

Ah ha! Vindication! *grin*


No such construct. _blank is the only legal way to open a new window. Yes, lots and lots of people use _top and it works by taking advantage of browser defaults, but this may be where it breaks down. I'm slowly weeding out any remaining ones I run into.


 10:16 pm on Mar 3, 2001 (gmt 0)

>> target="_top". No such construct.

You're right, I meant target="_blank". If I go too far down a chain of those windows, eventually the documents in them won't read cookies.


 6:03 am on Mar 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

Sorry, I meant _new not _top. (momentary lapse).


 8:35 pm on Mar 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

The rest of this story, is that there was a bug in my favorite browser a few versions ago. It was dealing with target=_blank, and _top. It was a long torid debate that left me fatigued about the whole issue. My stance, was that the browser shouldn't be obeying a new window on anything but a proper target of a frame, or the other default targets (top,blank...), but there are so many sites out there using various "target" tricks with IE and NN, that it had to obey even "_new" or anything nonstandard as a new window. As you can see above, the whole issue left me confused and the syntax obfuscated. Mark it up to one of the hazards of testing products.


 9:03 pm on Mar 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

Well, I have no excuse like testing products, but obviously I confuse the syntax for target=.

However, my bug-find stands. I've confirmed that it is sporadic, but NN4.7 has bugs around target="_blank" (yes, that's what I actually mean, _blank). These are most visible when the new window won't actually call out to the server for the site. But even after a page is actually downloaded, the cookies are seomtimes out of reach for the new window.

This has real implications for anyone using cookies on a site. If you are tracking user sessions, you will miss some data. And the user you so efficiently welcomed by name will all of a sudden become a generic visitor/guest. If the visitor needs to perform some action from the new window, they may need to log-in again. Their shopping cart may be lost, etc.

I'd say the moral is avoid using target="_blank" while Netscape 4.7 has a decent user base.

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