We all know that anytime we go to a webpage we are visiting more than one site. We do know that, right? Well you should. The web lives and thrives on connections that help websites and marketers try to gauge your interest. In an age where the lines around privacy are more than blurry and knowing who might be tracking you across the Internet worries some more than others it is a fact of life. Open a webpage and you make contact with many more sites that could potentially be tracking you than just the one that shows up on your screen. Those doing the tracking want to sell your browsing habits to others who want to know where you and everyone else goes. Theoretically this means when web ads come flying into your browser they are better targeted to your interests. That may happen, but, well, that’s the subject of another post.
For those curious about how many sites you come in contact with (or come in contact with you) as you browse the web, there is a new Firefox extension from Mozilla called Lightbeam. As the name suggests it shines a light on where you travel along the Internet in a variety of views. The idea is to give Firefox users an opportunity to see who might be tracking you. While some might think this is appealing to the paranoid, and others might think it is a worthwhile and necessary tool, the bottom line is that if you want to be informed it is a good way to begin getting a handle on where you go when you think you go to a site.
Or in the words of Mozilla:
Using interactive visualizations, Lightbeam enables you to see the first and third party sites you interact with on the Web. As you browse, Lightbeam reveals the full depth of the Web today, including parts that are not transparent to the average user. Using three distinct interactive graphic representations — Graph, Clock and List — Lightbeam enables you to examine individual third parties over time and space, identify where they connect to your online activity and provides ways for you to engage with this unique view of the Web.
There are three main views.
The graph view (above) shows you sites you’ve visited and the other sites that branch off from that single click. Note in the picture above that I specifically visited 12 sites but those 12 clicks brought me into the view of 163 other sites. Larger icons in the graph represent the sites I went to initially and connected sites branch out from there.
So, if you’re curious and want to begin to grasp how you travel through the web, and use Firefox, Lightbeam might be an interesting tool for you to see where you’ve been and who’s been watching along the way. You can get the Firefox add-on here.