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Google prefetching, what are the implications?

Friday, 08 April 2005

On Monday Google announced a new feature specifically for Mozilla users, support of the Prefetch function. What are the implications?


  • Prefetch will make a request to a site for the top result, even if the user doesn't actually visit it.
  • The prefetch idenitier (X-moz: prefetch) isn't standardised
  • The majority of website statistics systems on the market aren't filtering prefetch requests becuase it wasn't on their radar, so the standard reports will all be including them as normal user and page requests.
  • Hence: Site owners may therefore think their websites have suddenly become more popular than they really are.

The implication is that Website statistics systems will have to be updated to accomodate this feature, however Mozilla has made the issue of removing prefetch requests from statistics systems very tricky, as they have not standardised the identifier (X-moz: prefetch) they provide for the request. This means that even if you filter them now based on (X-moz: prefetch) they may change it again shortly, and your statistics will again be skewed.


I bet Google didn't think of this. From a search engine optimisation perspective the fact the Mozilla will be sending details of the reffering page on Google with the prefetch request, means it will be very useful for analysing the click through rates CTR, and editorial effectiveness of algorithmic search engine listings.  It will also identify where a website ranks highly for a particular keyphrase but isn't getting any/many clickthroughs. Bonus :-)

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