I’m really enjoying David Cancel’s Ghostery, a Firefox extension that automatically shows the presence of a set of tracking-oriented webbugs. (If you were using it now, you could easily see that yardley.ca uses Google Analytics and Mint.) The list of webbugs detected is hardcoded into the extension — it’s just searching for certain strings in the source, so there’s no need to worry about Ghostery grabbing your browser history. If you’re a website snoop like me, it’s terrific. (And it cracks me up that Fred’s blog is the poster child for this.)
David, if I could ask for a few enhancements, they’d be these:
- a longer list of ad network URLs – many of the big ones are there but there’s hundreds missing, and since the vast majority of ad networks do in fact track behavior this wouldn’t be outside Ghostery’s mission.
- a way of visually indicating when the site placed a script on the page vs. another script calling it. Fred’s blog, for instance, shows Federated Media & Doubleclick, but I strongly suspect the latter was called by the former and the original source of the page, before any JS runs, doesn’t contain Doubleclick at all. (This would be fascinating when looking at long ad network daisy chains.)
- a preferences panel that I could use to add names and values to my local Ghostery installation – right now, when I want to dig for something specific, I pop open Firebug and do a search there, and Ghostery would be faster for me.
On the whole, a terrific tool — and if there was an easy way to add new companies to Ghostery for the benefit of everybody, I’d be on that in a second.