Facebook referrers update

A request we've had quite a bit is to show the actual page that a visitor has come from on Facebook. It's not that we were trying to hide it in the first place, it just didn't show anything beyond facebook.com. We decided to dig into this further today.

When you post a link on Facebook, whether it's in your feed or on a fan page, Facebook makes that link go through a redirect script first. There are several good reasons for this that I can think of that benefit both Facebook users and Facebook Inc., but we don't need to get into that right now. All that matters is any link that someone clicks on Facebook to an external site goes through their redirect script first.

Browsers normally keep referrers intact through redirects, but Facebook is doing something different. They are using Javascript to call document.location.replace() to send you on your merry way. This method works the same as if this intermediate page instead had a link to click on, and that link sent you to the external page: the end result being that this intermediate page "becomes" the referrer.

Out of curiosity, I wondered if you had Javascript disabled, since this intermediate page appeared to only use Javascript and no other method of redirect. Well, turns out with Javascript disabled, the links on Facebook actually point directly to the third party page. But... sigh... without Javascript, Clicky can't access the referrer at all.

So I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like what we have now for Facebook referrers is the best we're going to get. If you know of an analytics service that through some minor miracle actually gives you referrer data from profiles or fan pages, let us know, but I'm pretty sure it's impossible. Sorry!
8 comments |   May 20 2011 10:19am





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