Google Web Accelerator: Hey, not so fast Jason 06 May 2005

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Google’s web accelerator seems like a good thing for the public web, but it can wreak havok on web-apps and other things with admin-links built into the UI. How’s that?

The accelerator scours a page and prefetches the content behind each link. This gives the illusion of pages loading faster (since they’ve already been pre-loaded behind the scenes). Here’s the problem: Google is essentially clicking every link on the page — including links like “delete this” or “cancel that.” And to make matters worse, Google ignores the Javascript confirmations. So, if you have a “Are you sure you want to delete this?” Javascript confirmation behind that “delete” link, Google ignores it and performs the action anyway. Disrespect.

We discovered this yesterday when a few people were reporting that their Backpack pages were “disappearing.” We were stumped until we dug a little deeper and discovered this Web Accelerator behavior. Once we figured this out we added some code to prevent Google from prefetching the pages and clicking the links, but it was quite disconcerting.

This wouldn’t be much of a problem on the public web since it’s pretty tough to be destructive on public web pages, but web apps, with their admin links here and there, can be considerably damaged. If you have a web app, it might be worth returning a 403 when the HTTP_X_MOZ is set to “prefetch” header is sent. This will keep Web Accelerator from clicking destructive links. Here’s an FAQ on prefetching for more information.

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