Tag Archives: AddToAny

Care to share; testing Simple Share Buttons Adder

A couple of days ago a WP DoNotTrack user asked which WordPress sharing plugin I would recommend instead of privacy-killer “Share Buttons” by Lockerz / AddToAny. I’m not really into those sharing thingies (except for my little own performance-centric experiment maybe), but I nevertheless had a quick look in the Plugin repository and this was my feedback:

Just did a quick test with “Simple Share Buttons Adder“, no tracking there that I can see, cfr. this webpagetest test result (I did disable the custom font in styling->share text to avoid having to fetch a google font).

No tracking and performance isn’t shabby either, but some speed-improvements could be made:

  • By default the plugin includes a Google Font, which slows the page down. Changing this to “inherit from my website” in the “Styling”-settings, improves the performance.
  • Each share service’s image is fetched separately, from a performance point of view it would make sense to use one image sprite instead.
  • You can add a share counter: but without a caching plugin the page load is slowed down significantly, but with a caching plugin the counters aren’t updated any more. ideally the share counter would be empty on page load (i.e. just placeholders in HTML) and after the page has loaded an ajax call would get and set the correct numbers. The “backend” the ajax-call connects with could feature some light caching (5 minutes maybe)?

But all in all a nice sharing plugin, so if you want to have those share buttons, do give Simple Share Buttons Adder a go.

lyteShare.js high-performance social widget for your sharing pleasure

Based on last week’s performance analysis of popular sharing-services (AddThis, ShareThis and Lockerz/AddToAny) I decided to continue working on my high-performance & privacy-respecting but rather ad-hoc lyteShare alternative. The result is a 1.6Kb JavaScript file (or the non-minimized version here) that, upon being included in a HTML-file, looks for a div like this one:

<div class="lyteShare twitter googleplus facebook"></div>

and adds sharing-buttons for Twitter, Google+ and Facebook to that div (Linkedin, Yammer and Tumblr are also supported). You can see lyteShare.js in action on this test-page. The webpagetest.org test result is great when compared to that of the big boys;

ShareThisAddThisLockerz/ AddToAnylyteShare.js
Document Complete0.677s0.487s1.352s0.364s
Start Render0.715s0.279s0.304s0.275s
Fully Loaded1.507s3.718s1.407s0.596s
Full Download size70 KB384 KB 111 KB9 KB
WebPageTest URLsharethis resultaddthis result lockerz/ addtoany resultlyteshare result
3rd party tracking?yes yes yesno

Now the question is; does the world really need yet another social sharing widget solution, even if it is easy, fast & not a vehicle for 3rd party behavioral web tracking? Does the world (and this blog) even need social sharing widgets at all?

Sharing widgets harm your website’s performance

[UPDATE: I reworked lyteShare into a standalone javascript-thingie]

Doing Web Performance can be so easy, really! I was asked to do a performance analysis of a new website and one of the things I didn’t like was the fact that the footer contained social media sharing buttons using the ShareThis widget. I’m not a fan of sharing widgets in general, as they tend to slow webpage loading and rendering down and as they almost invariably come with “3rd party tracking” for behavioral marketing purposes.

So why not do a quick comparison between a simple page with ShareThis, AddThis, AddToAny/ Lockerz share and one which uses inline javascript to render the buttons? For that purpose I quickly created lyteShare, an inline JavaScript thingie that dynamically adds the Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus sharing buttons after the load event has been fired. I’m not going to bother you with code (but you can look at the page’s source here if you want)  it’s probably far from perfect and it sure isn’t pretty, but it works and the webpagetest.org-results tell it all.

ShareThisAddThisLockerz/ AddToAnyinline JS (“lyteShare”)
Document Complete0.677s0.487s1.352s0.283s
Start Render0.715s0.279s0.304s0.298s
Fully Loaded1.507s3.718s1.407s0.500s
Full Download size70 KB384 KB 111 KB7 KB
Test Reportsharethis resultaddthis result lockerz/ addtoany resultlyteshare result
3rd party tracking?yes yes yesno

So yep, ShareThis, AddThis  and AddToAny/ Lockerz (and all sharing widgets really) are performance-hogs that also track your visitors’ every move while offering little or no added value to what anyone could do with some simple JavaScript (or server-side code, for that matter).

Conclusion: if performance is of any importance for your website (and it should be), you really have to avoid using 3rd party widgetery!

AddToAny now includes Lockerz tracking

Update 02-2015: things change, blogposts get out of date and indeed A2A is not owned by Lockerz any more.

AddToAny, one of the most popular sharing-widgets around, has had 3rd party tracking by Media6degrees for quite some time already. I wasn’t too happy about that, but it did have the no_3p option to disable this “functionality”. Half a year ago however AddToAny was acquired by Lockerz.com and it now includes tracking by Lockerz.com which cannot be turned off and does not check for navigator.doNotTrack either.

I’ve contacted the developer (Pat’s a swell guy, really) and he answered he would look into honoring the DoNotTrack header, which he wrote he’d love to include in Q1 somewhere. In the mean time, if you have AddToAny on your site, you can already hide the Lockerz “Earn” tab. And if you’re on WordPress, you could install (or upgrade) WP DoNotTrack, which I’ve updated to stop the Lockerz tracking (make sure lockerz.com is your blacklist).

If there’s a Drupalista out there that uses AddToAny and would like to stop Lockerz tracking; I’d be happy to co-author a Drupal DoNotTrack module, do get in touch!

Remove “via @addtoany” from Twitter

Although I don’t do Twitter and even though I removed AddtoAny from my blog over a year ago, people have been stopping by here while searching for ways to remove “via @addtoany” from Twitter.

If you own the site on which AddtoAny is used, removing the “via” is pretty straightforward and documented. Just add some javascript in your pages to define a “template” for Twitter, like this:

var a2a_config = a2a_config || {};
a2a_config.templates = {
    twitter: "Interesting read: ${title} ${link}"

Be sure ${link}, and preferably ${title} are in the template. The rest is up to you, really. And while you’re at it, you might want to configure AddtoAny not to do 3rd party tracking?

AddToAny: removing the “spy” from the share-ware

Update 02-2015: the information below does not reflect the way AddToAny works now and as such only has historical value. The comment by A2A’s developer below, explains what has been done between 2010 and 2015.

After discovering AddToAny secretly enrolls all of my blogs visitors in a behavioral marketing platform, I disabled the plugin and mailed the author for more information. He answered the media6degrees-integration was a partner-test, only providing them with non-personally identifiable data, which the company indeed can use for targeted advertising. But the good news was that AddToAny would also offer a “publisher opt-out mechanism” shortly. And indeed, last week, Pat announced the brand new a2a api and mailed me the following opt-out code;

var a2a_config = a2a_config || {};
a2a_config.no_3p = 1;

These two lines of javascript, which have to be placed in front of the http://static.addtoany.com/menu/page.js script-include, should disable all current and future 3rd party tracking. I hope the web-guys from e.g. deredactie.be and standaard.be (and there are many others) implement this as soon as possible!

So now we can opt-out from having our visitors being spied upon by media6degrees, what more could one want? Well, since you’re asking, here’s a small list of things AddToAny could really should do;

  • transparency; tell users that their visitors’ information will be shared with 3rd parties (in all relevant places)
  • documentation: show them how to “remove the spy” on the AddToAny api page (“no_3p” isn’t there)
  • ease-of-use: allow the tracking to be disabled with a simple checkbox in the WordPress and Drupal plugins

The opt-out code is a important first step and I’m sure concerns such as those voiced on the WordPress-forums will help AddToAny to further make the right decisions!

AddToAny removed-from-here

Update 02-2015: the information below does not reflect the way AddToAny works now and as such only has historical value, read this comment by the developer for more info.

When looking at my blog’s performance in Google Webmaster Tools I saw Google complained of multiple dns-lookups. I knew about stats.wordpress.com, google-analytics.com (well, yeah …) and gravatar.com, but one domain in the list didn’t make sense to me at all; media6degrees.com, so I started to investigate a bit. Grepping the wordpress-, theme- and plugin-code on my server didn’t reveal anything, so I went into Firebug to see what was happening in javascript.

Apparently the AddToAny WordPress-plugin was initiating the call:

  1. add-to-any requests http://static.addtoany.com/menu/page.js (which is rather big but gzipped & cache-able)
  2. page.js in turn contains tracking (near the end of the file), by requesting an 1X1 pixel image at http://map.media6degrees.com/orbserv/hbpix?pixId=2869&curl=<encoded URL of page>
  3. media6degrees then sends the pixel and … sets multiple cookies in the process

And what’s media6degrees business you ask? Maybe they’re just providing the add-to-any author with statistics? Well, not exactly. This is what media6degrees writes on their website: “We deliver scalable custom audiences to major marketers by utilizing the online connections of their consumers.” So by using AddToAny, you’re providing media6degrees with data about your site’s visitors, which they can use to sell targeted communication to their customers.

If visitors of small-time blogs like mine would be the only ones affected by this, the damage would be limited. But AddToAny is also implemented on large local news-outlets such as deredactie.be or De Standaard Online and no doubt on some big international sites as well. Somehow I doubt those organizations know they’re feeding their visitors to media6degrees and I bet some of them would even strongly disagree.

I’m not happy about this, that much is clear. AddToAny offers great functionality, but:

  • it adds unneeded requests to my page, causing the page to finish loading later (dns-request + http-request)
  • it enrolls my site visitors in a targeted communication platform without anyone knowing (or agreeing)
  • none of this is communicated on the AddToAny website or on the AddToAny WordPress plugin page

I mailed the author about this earlier this week (when i didn’t even know about media6degrees tracking cookies yet), but got no feedback up until now and I logged an issue on the wordpress.org support forum as well. And I decided to pull the plug on AddToAny off course, replacing it with sociable, making my blog render yet another millisecond faster, while at the same time protecting my visitors from this sneaky behavioral tracking by AddToAny and media6degrees.