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1) Increasingly, belatedly, everyone has realised what a useful data-gathering tool Google has at its disposal to give it an edge in search results: the toolbar. Over the last year, lots of companies have produced their own toolbar. Today or yesterday Yahoo! created WebRank, probably in a bid to get more people to download the Y! toolbar.
2) Nobody I know uses an MSN toolbar - I'm not even sure that one exists.
3) Nevertheless, MSN are building a search engine to take on Google and Yahoo! and they need something to provide user behaviour data on the scale of the G and Y! toolbars.
4) Approximately 90% of web users use IE.
5) All Microsoft needs to do is bundle a 'hidden' toolbar for IE (ie. even if you combed through the source code it wouldn't obviously resemble a toolbar) with its next Critical Update for Windows.
6) There was a major critical update at the beginning of March and loads of news about it and lots of media attention. There was a fair amount of criticism that it had taken Microsoft so long to patch the security hole.
So the question is: are we all hosting the MSN search 'toolbar' already?
It snoops *all* traffic from my computer and the only thing I have ever seen out of ordinary is traffic going to Adobe.com.
It may happen at some point in the future, and I am sure when it happens there will be a massive uproar.
It is impossible for Microsoft to hide this sort of thing unless they go to dick around with the network stack .. basically great, deceptive lengths .. in which case the uproar would halve their brand value overnight.
unless they go to dick around with the network stack
Nah, they could do that and hide it from 99% of their users very easily. Send the traffic out on port 80, and nobody would know. I agree about the uproar, though.
But privacy issues aside, tracking visits from a toolbar that everyone uses would be an excellent way to rank web sites. I wouldn't mind if all the toolbars had an opt-in thing to send their tracking data to Alexa.
There is one! See:
Hmm, I wonder if they wrote that, or stole it and changed some of the icons? :)
A ranking system based on the browser would be better than Alexa. I think there are more Alexa users using it to inflate their own rank than non-webmasters using it. Afterall, we know that webmasterworld.com is NOT one of the most popular sites on the web, yet according to Alexa it is. The truth is that it's really only popular among Alexa users - aka webmasters who want to manipulate their own Alexa ranking :)
If Microsoft had something built into the browser that reported the sites that were visited (privately - just the URL, not the IP address browser id or any other identifiable information) then I would be all for that. Would be neat to see how websites REALLY rank.
No obvious extra traffic, it could be encrypted so no one notices, and given the quality of most MS products, they'd be getting a few million updates a day.
The "alert MS" tool submits no personal identifiable information what so ever. This was carefully looked at when it was first launched in Office XP back in 2001.
Personally I find this tool useful for fixing a few issues which I have had with Outlook - provides me with a fix :)