Make Up Your Mind!
January 25, 2010 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Why do internet ads load so many different URLs in your browser before displaying the final content?

I've been noticing this more and more, but tonight I clicked a clothing ad, and I saw more than 4 URLs display in my address field before I got to see the content I wanted.

I can see reasons to for a single redirect. I do this with various sites/pages. I create a page that redirects to my main site. I use this to track the success of inbound links, but more and more I click on an ad and I watch the address field in my browser go nuts. I see URLs go by faster than I can read them. I'm trying to figure out what's to be gained here. To me it feels scammy, but the sites it was on is reputable and the advertising was for a national brand.

Bonus point: any way I can see each domain that goes by? I use a mac if it matters. The domains don't show in my browser history.
posted by cjorgensen to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Best answer: Different ads are served by different affiliates and partners and exchanges, and these URLs allow ads to be sold and re-sold as packages; the redirects from one URL to another are an easy way (via server logs) to track who's clicking on what ads from what sites through what affiliates and partners and exchanges.
posted by davejay at 5:28 PM on January 25, 2010

Referral kickbacks.
posted by rbs at 5:29 PM on January 25, 2010

Best answer: It's pretty easy to get up to four. One redirect to track the source of the click, another to track the affiliate code, another to add a session identifier, another to sniff the browser or region and redirect you to the appropriate final URI. These could all be done in a single redirect of course, but they might outsource these various tasks to different services since different entities within the company are interested in different bits of that information.
posted by kindall at 5:30 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In Safari 4.x you can see the URLs of all the images/js/etc by clicking on Window -> Activity
posted by birdherder at 5:34 PM on January 25, 2010

Because these internet marketing geniuses don't know what they hell they're doing.

You can't expect merchants to get a clue overnight, and you damn sure can't expect the internet marketers to start caring about your experience more than their ad impressions, so just install Adblock, subscribe to a blocklist, and enjoy your pages loading seconds faster without all the tracking/referral nonsense.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:20 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seconding what davejay said. There will often be several intermediaries between the merchant and the site that publishes an ad. Tamperdata is a Firefox addon that lets you view (and, if you wish, edit) the various redirect URLs.
posted by zombiedance at 8:12 PM on January 25, 2010

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