Wrong numbers and internet hit counters


It is the custom to have a celebratory hit counter on the opening page of each web site, as with this one. The number of hits recorded is, however, totally misleading. The reason for this is that an increasing number of institutions and service providers rely on cache machines, which interrogate the frequently used sites and store them for subsequent multiple use by their clients. This saves money and traffic. In institutions it also enables Big Brother to keep an eye on what the inmates are reading. Thus each recorded hit might represent a thousand readers or none at all.

As an example, on the face of it  this site is very big in Virginia. Every few days (night time in Virginia) it receives a dozen hits from that state. Examination of the origins of the request, however, show that they are all cache machines belonging to AOL. In many cases it is not possible to glean from the name whether they are cache machines or not, and some cloak themselves in complete anonymity.

Furthermore, returning visitors and those externally referred to particular pages do not enter via the index page. Comparison with the hosting services statistical service shows that fewer than half of visits are registered by the counter.

Never believe all you read.

Index, search box and begging bowl