Friday, November 7, 2008

What Happened to the Facebook Tracker?

This article is an explanation of why you can no longer track Facebook Note views. However, I should point out that you can still track links in Facebook notes. For more information, please see the following posts:

Facebook Link Tracking in Facebook Notes
Tracking Facebook Links Outside of Notes

I do get a lot of questions about Facebook tracking and whether it's possible to track a Facebook profile page. Right now, the answer is "no". Some of you will remember that there was, at one point, a Facebook Note Tracker on the WunderCounter, but since Facebook has made some changes, it no longer works.

It's a pretty basic problem. The WunderCounter is really a tiny graphic, which needs to be loaded by a web browser. When you insert it into a web page (like a Myspace page), it gets loaded by each visitor to the page. In an effort to exert maximum control over how pages look and behave, Facebook has decided to cache the images displayed on their pages. It really speeds up page loads, but it gives you much less control over your page content. Personally, don't like it, but if you look at the load times for a lot of Myspace profiles you can see why they might want to do that.

So, if you add an image to a Facebook note (like the counter), you'll notice that a Facebook server will download the image once (this is the caching) and then you'll never see any more tracking stats on that note. Originally this was not the case, and it was possible to get an idea of how many people were reading your notes by tracking the accesses, but Facebook has tightened this up recently.

Having said that, I believe it may be possible to use the WunderCounter when tracking pages of a Facebook application, but that's something for Facebook developers rather than regular users.

So, don't blame me -- blame Facebook!


Anonymous said...

just wondering what would happen if the images keeps changing or just cycles through a list?

test said...

@Anonymous: The root of the problem is that, since Facebook caches all of the images, it is inserting a layer between the image and the user. Under this scenario, you'll never be able to track a user IP/host etc, because Facebook is always the intermediary.

Even if you could get beyond the caching, you'd only see Facebook server hits in your logs. So, you'd at least see *when* your image is being viewed, but you wouldn't get any useful info beyond that.