Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boingboing, Pheedo, and Cookie Annoyance

I'm one of those paranoid types who likes to keep precise control over who is able to save cookies, and for which duration. For that reason, I have the "Ask me every time" option set in Firefox, so that I can choose for each cookie (and blanket-ban whole domains) whether it will not be allowed to be set, whether it can be set forever, or whether it'll only last for the session. In particular, any advertising related URLs don't get set.

Most of them are pretty nice in playing with Firefox, and they'll try to set a cookie for something like .doubleclick.net, meaning that the same cookie will be used for foo.doubleclick.net, bar.doubleclick.net, whatever. I reject it once, reject everything from .doubleclick.net ever being set, and we're all happy.

The way they do this is by having a single point of entry to their cookie setting, so that:
  • They always serve ads from a single url (like ads.advertising.com)
  • They differentiate the ad either by cookie or by URL (so serving http://ads.advertising.com/8347283479327482937)
  • They properly set the domain to .advertising.com for other usage.

However, then I encountered Pheedo. Their motto appears to be "RSS Advertising Done Right." I might recommend that it's really "RSS Advertising Designed To Annoy Your Audience." I've only encountered them thus far with Boingboing, but it's annoying enough that I might actually drop BB from my blog roll and only read it on the web in the future as a result. Here's what they appear to do.

Every single link that they put into your feed has a unique domain name (not URL) (like e61225ff1c0b2a237f8fb7b3efbe3dd6.img.pheedo.com). That means that you have to individually reject or accept every single image/ad which, by the way, I've already adblocked out. The cookie itself is properly specifying the domain to be .pheedo.com, but the site its being served from is playing DNS differentiation rather than URL differentiation, meaning that the standard Firefox rules don't apply.

I tried to contact Pheedo on this and ask them to stop, but they didn't reply. C'est la vie.

I guess my annoyance is three-fold:
  • Pheedo, for sucking so hard.
  • Boingboing, for using them
  • Firefox's cookie wrangling (which I otherwise love by the way, and is one main reason why I use it on my Mac rather than Safari or whatever) for not allowing more complicated cookie rejection rules (AdBlock has no problem with blocking pheedo stuff, so I never even see the ads anyway).
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