The AddThis Flash Cookie… We Need Your Feedback

Wow! 2008 has been quite the year. In the last six months alone, a lot of exciting things have happened. In September, AddThis became part of the Clearspring family of sharing products. Since then, we’ve been heads down working to make the tool the best it possibly can be.

As we announced back in October, we’ve started using a Flash cookie (the same one that’s used in Clearspring’s analytics engine) to help give us insight into how we can give you all a better sharing experience, deep publisher analytics, monetization capabilities, and more.

There has been a lot of discussion around this. We’ve been tracking all of the conversations, reading every piece of feedback, and responding as much as possible. We really care about you guys. You guys are the reason why AddThis is the success that it is.

Well, from when we started using the Flash cookie, we’ve learned a lot. In this post, we wanted to tell you a bit more about the roadmap for AddThis and what the Flash cookie is allowing us to do.

First and foremost, our goal is to provide you with a tool that’s going to help your content get the most sharing possible and then provide you the data so you can learn about how your content is getting shared.

With the cookie, we’re going to be able to provide you with data about the number of unique visitors that you’re getting. For this, the Flash cookie allows us to give you guys the highest level of precision. This report is coming soon.

It will also allow us to have “smart” personalization within the AddThis hover menu. Having integrated with over 40 different social destinations, the current default AddThis hover menu consists of the services that our stats say that your users share the most with. But what if your users mainly share to Twitter? They’ll have to go to the pop-up menu, which is harder to use because it’s a pretty big list.

Our smart personalization will help us learn which services your users like to use the most and bubble those up to the hover menu. This makes it more likely that your users will share because the social destinations they use most will be front and center for them to use.

So what do you guys think?

If you have questions/concerns/feedback about this cookie, we want to hear from you…post a comment or send me an e-mail – justin@addthis.com

Update: As of 3/11/2010, we no longer use a Flash cookie for tracking–personalization is not affected.

  • Robert

    Please leave the widget the way it is, I’m not interested in that feature. The new reporting is nice, but I only want users to see the social destinations that I have chosen in AddThis. Let me choose based on your reporting.

    Also I do not mind the Flash cookie but I know other people left AddThis for ShareThis and AddToAny and other social bookmark tools because of that. Please post and get feedback (like you are doing now) before making changes. Thank you.

    Robert

  • http://www.clearspring.com justin

    Robert, thanks so much for your feedback.

    It’s my understanding that there will be a publisher override for the “smart” personalization feature so that you’ll always have final control. Let me double check that and get back to you.

    In regards to soliciting feedback, yes, we plan to do it as much as possible. Our goal is to make you all as successful as possible. We can only do that with your feedback.

    cheers,
    -justin thorp
    Community Manager for AddThis

  • Chris

    As a user of the AddThis button a site which promotes the use of anti-Flash technology, it makes me for one very much wish there was an option to NOT use the cookie.

    I have attempted to contact your support to see if this is a possibility only for my request for information to be ignored.

    It seems the only option we have right now is to stop using the AddThis button because of our sites principles.

    Would love to see this as an option presented ASAP

  • http://www.clearspring.com justin

    Chris, feel free to e-mail me any time. I’d love to hear more about your concerns. – justin@addthis.com

  • Carrie

    I would love the option to turn the cookie off. I’m a consultant in support of a federal agency website, and, for better or worse, policy dictates that government websites cannot leave persistent cookies.

    Also, I’m curious when the button will be made accessible? Your larger popup window is, but currently your customizable dropdown window is not readable by screenreaders. This will pose a problem for your government customers that must adhere to section 508 standards for accessibility.

    It’s a great tool, but the cookies and inacessibility are obstacles to those of us in the public sector.

  • Brian

    Is there an update on this?
    Will we be able to disable the Flash portion of the button if we want to?

    I finally decided to simply remove the button from my website after having my browser continually complain about how I needed to install additional plug-ins to view the page (which this page is doing to me right now).

    Since there is no obvious place anywhere on my site that requires Flash, I thought it made things seem shady, so I removed it, which is unfortunate because I thought it was a simple and convenient service.

  • Sven

    I’ve just removed the AddThis code from my website because of the flash cookie. The reason is not that I don’t like flash, the reason are the complete browser crashes it causes. I first saw this in my virtual test machine with Win XP and IE6, now I installed IE8 RC1 and even this browser crashes completely. The flash version is probably old in the virtual machine, but this is not acceptable. A website should never crash the complete browser. I’m sorry, no AddThis for me until this is removed.

  • http://www.exotica.org.uk Jools

    I recently just started using addthis, however after viewing the site on a machine without flash and having it make a notification that the page used flash, was an annoyance (I dont want users to think they need flash for my site and I don’t want people to be asked to install flash on my site). Unfortunately it seems I must replace the addthis button with a homebaked solution.

    Maybe it would have been good to consult your users before making this change or at least make it optional.

  • http://www.tickitaly.com tickitaly

    A ‘Me Too’ on the above post from Sven. Having already reported the IE6 crash issue on the forum, cam back here to see if there was any news on the hinted-at opt-out option. There isn’t, and therefore AddThis stays off all sites.

    And Flash-cookie stuffing is already pretty debased and spammy. I’d expect most web security products will eventually begin blocking them.

    And, a final grumpy note – your Captcha is one of the hardest to read I have ever seen.

  • Jeff Jones

    This has caused us some headaches with our federal clients, which are forbidden to collect (or require the collection of) personal data on visitors, and the use of cookies in particular. Is there any chance addthis subscribers can opt out of this tracking?

  • Jason Smith

    I am a webmaster. This “feature” is just simply not good. I would use the word evil but I want my message to be accepted. I represent a great many webmasters who do NOT want this feature. I also know many people who use firefox’s flashblock, a very popular plugin, and it will show this hidden tracking button/feature and break the pages, plus there are privacy implications if a website’s terms of service represents a certain level of protection, which this tracking then breaks.

    Take it out ASAP. Until them, my circle of people have all completely uninstalled it.

  • http://www.clearspring.com justin

    Jason, thanks so much for you feedback. It’s something we’ll take into consideration.

  • User

    No more flash cookies, ever.

    chmod 000 ~/.macromedia/Flash_Player/#SharedObjects/

  • Viktor Bresan

    There is nothing new that I could add. I am leaving AddThis because of the flash cookie.

  • http://mprower@gmail.com Miles

    Do not want.

  • Miles

    Hi,

    Said a while ago that I would not endorse this kind of cookie at all. As the webmaster of a proudly Flash-free website, I do not accept that such a cookie make an appearance on my pages without my approval. Moreover, the cookie will definitely fail to work on the users my site is targeting, as they are mostly running a CELL-based operating system. Some of them uses ARM too. Adobe does not provide any kind of Flash support for CELL.

    Basically, the only data you will be able to collect will only be from lost users using IE on WinXP and arriving in the site by accident. This means that it will not be representative at all. Plus, using Flash is soooo 2001.

    Moreover, I use widely-known tools such as FlashBlock to surf daily on the internet. The good thing about the ShareThis plugin is that it is efficient and enormously used. The bad thing is that almost every site I visit now feature an annoying top banner (actually rendered from Flashblock), asking me to click on it to load and run the Flash element. It’s really not that invisible.

  • Pingback: Flash Cookies and addThis: Good or Bad? – KapaldoDesign

  • Another

    Is there any update on being able to opt out of this? For all the reasons mentioned above, I’m considering removing AddThis from my sites, but would rather just be able to opt-out of the Flash element.
    Thanks.

  • http://www.mattchedit.com/About/About.aspx Matt Chatterley

    AddThis – deleted.

    This isn’t a good idea – tracking which could violate a host sites privacy policy. What is worse is that it was added without an active notification to registered ‘clients’ using AddThis!

  • http://www.hammerhead226.org Ian Hartwig

    Sorry to bring back an old post, but I also disagree with this ‘feature’. I wouldn’t mind the flash, but it crashes all my testing IEs (6, 7, 8) with flash player 6 (it’s old, but should not make the browser crash). I can’t even load the AddThis home page in my testing IEs due to the flash cookie. It also shows up on the iPhone’s safari browser as an unplayable object, leaving an unsightly icon in the middle of the page.

  • http://www.fropki.com Rahul

    Is there any way one can optout this flash tracking cookie? if yes please let me know.

  • http://www.clearspring.com justin

    Hi all, somehow some of these comments got flipped on after I had responded to these commenters on a one on one basis. Figured it’d be good to summarize my correspondence here.

    Flash cookies aren’t new. They’re a pretty common practice and have been used within the industry since the beginning. We’ve been using them for over 3 years.

    We use them so that we can most accurately report to our users the size of their communities and to provide the forthcoming feature of menu personalization. We list out all the data we collect and why here – http://addthis.com/help/faq#datacollection

    Privacy is very important to us. We welcome you to take a look at our privacy policy – http://addthis.com/privacy

    Lastly, via our API, we make it easy for you to opt out – http://addthis.com/help/api-spec#configuration-ui

    If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to e-mail me personally – justin@addthis.com

  • http://multilayerdesign.com/ Kev Jaques

    I flagged this up with my clients back in July as soon as I noticed the need for flash and the acquisition. With millions using this useful functionality it really should be of prime importance to make sure all of your own clients/users are aware of such issues.
    Privacy issues are becoming all too much of a necessity and by not informing users of this change it may well be in breach of some regulation.
    Also showing the code snippet to be able to turn this functionality off should have also been conveyed.
    What I can’t understand is why no one was emailed with these changes, everyone has to register so it would have been a really easy way to get in touch and put out the message of this change.

  • Jack

    The Flash widget div is actually pushing my website content down 15pixels on first load!

    I can probably fix it with some CSS, but come on, breaking a sites layout while dubiously collecting information… Not sure if I should laugh or cry.

  • http://www.clearspring.com justin

    @Jack, so sorry about this bug. This is something that we’re actively working on fixing right now. In the mean time, I’d recommend just disabling the Flash cookie. You can do this via our Menu API (http://addthis.com/help/menu-api) and setting “data_use_flash” to false.