The HTTP referer (also called HTTP referrer) is an optional HTTP header field that recognizes webpage address (i.e., the Uniform Resource Identifier or IRI) connected to the resource being requested. By inspecting the referrer, the new webpage can determine where the original request was initiated.

Generally, such situations usually imply once any user clicks a hyperlink on a webpage, the browser forwards a request to the server containing the destination of the webpage. The inclusion in such requests usually comprises of the referrer field, which shows the last page the user visited before clicking the new link.

How The HTTP Referrer Works

The HTTP referrer provides the services of a referrer header, which transmits data from the former webpage to the new website a user is presently viewing. It simply refers to any source online responsible for driving visitors and visits to a website. Typical examples include Affiliate links, email marketing campaigns, links built into the software, links from other websites, online ads, search engines, social media, and more.

Each time a user visits a website, one of the essential data recorded are details of previous web pages. These details are usually in the form of the page’s URL — for example, the last page visited before selecting a link to the new website.

The idea of using HTTP referrer is to deliver useful information relating to the referral page as well as the link clicked to access your website. The log containing such detail is referred to as the referrer log. Technically, when the term “referrer” is used by the web developer, it is explicitly referring to online resources, including sites or services found in the referrer log.

Why Is HTTP Referrer Important?

The information provided by the HTTP referrer offers a better analysis of where website traffic is coming from. Additionally, it also provides an insight into what works for a website form the marketing standpoint and which marketing approach is currently valid. Generally, information obtained from HTTP referrer aid most websites make better choices when it comes to strategizing.

How HTTP Referrer Are Used to Track User Activity?

Website owners often desire to know where their visitors are coming from and may decide to track its user’s path. The HTTP Referrer offers a unique approach to telling website owners both useful and less useful links.

Once a user connected to the internet clicks a link in a browser, it loads the clicked web page and also tells the new webpage where the user visited last. Therefore, it contains all the information related to past websites.

The HTTP referrer is also engaged when a web page is loading its content. Let’s say, if a web page contains ads or tracking script, the user browsers also provide information to the advertiser or tracking network about the page currently in view. Also, web bugs, which are a file object placed on web pages, exploit the features of HTTP referrer in tracking users.

Measure That Can Be Taken To Protect Privacy

The HTTP referer remains a common and powerful tool capable of pointing out which website the link was located that the current visitor clicked to visit your site. Although it remains beneficial to web designers and SEOs who seek to leverage more gaining the right audience and visitors, some users are not comfortable with been tracked.

There are several measures to be taken in protecting yourself from been tracked with HTTP referer. But how is it done?

One step to more privacy and protection starts with the security settings on a user’s browser. In the security settings, the HTTP referer can be turned off to limit its features. After turning it off, accessing URL with HTTP referer can be granted only if the referer can be established.

Another step to mitigating the risk associated with HTTP referer is by the sensible design of applications. The use of practical application boosts security by making a password reset URLs only functional for single usage.

Also, it is essential to engage only sites that always use HTTPS. Websites with HTTPS offer several security benefits, including the fact that such websites would never convey referrer data to non-HTTPS sites. Although the concept is turning out to be less useful in this context as most websites are now making use of HTTPS, but it remains worthy to note.

Additionally, users should consider not using any third-party content or widgets (i.e., social networking widgets) on less secure areas or websites. For instance, login areas, payment forms, password reset pages, etc.

In Conclusion

The use of the HTTP referer makes it an easy task for some website owners who may consider the possibility of seeing what pages visitors are coming from. The usage of certain websites can be linked to other websites, especially when you probably follow a link displayed on the page. Nevertheless, privacy and data usage are always essential reasons for a variety of users and now yo know that specific steps can be taken to improve your overall safety as well as limit the activities of the HTTP referrer.

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