WinXP IE6 spells death for Doubleclick – and a boost for MSN?

There goes another air supply...

Internet Explorer 6 will spell doom for Doubleclick, and by some strange coincidence will provide a massive boost for Microsoft's own MSN/.NET activities, according to a source at a major international financial organisation. The organisation in question, says our source, has read the runes, noted that the Doubleclick tracking cookies it currently uses (copiously) across its sites bounce off IE6, and is poised to switch to the alternative offered by those nice people at Microsoft.

The Register has not as yet been able to verify these claims entirely, so although we know the organisation in question, we're not going to name it right now. It is crystal-clear that IE6 (WinXP builds 2475 and 2481) with the privacy settings on default blocks every single Doubleclick cookie from this particular operation's network of sites. Try it yourself, Doubleclick is a major player and will be for a few more months at least, but the cookies it gets its revenues from are all automatically culled by IE6.

The bit of the story we can't verify is our source's claim that MSN cookies are not blocked by IE6, whereas Doubleclick ones are. Although he claims that he absolutely cannot block the MSN cookies, the ones we think are MSN ones are blocked along with the Doubleclick ones. Nor are Microsoft's own tracking mechanisms in general entirely XP-ready - right now IE6 blocks MSN-derived cookies (some of them Doubleclick ones, of course) in pretty large volumes.

But you could rough up a plausible theory here. Indisputably, Doubleclick cookies are toast when IE6 hits, and they're toast because of the way the default privacy settings are implemented, they're third party cookies. But need cookies derived from the Beast of Redmond be deemed third party? WinXP is riddled with MSN and .NET markers, blink for a second and you'll have accidentally agreed to trust all cookies/certificates/dubious new operating systems from Microsoft and... It's scarcely surprising if major site proprietors are already noting which way the wind's blowing.

At the very least Microsoft is 'accidentally' crippling one of the major competitors, plus the lesser ones in the same category, while at the same time girding itself to pitch into their market, but on a far more comprehensive and, er, integrated scale.

Declaration of interest time. The Register uses Doubleclick for ad tracking. This does not mean we like them, matter of fact, we'd rather not pay them the huge quantities of money we contribute to their outrageously flash new London offices just up the road from us. Nor do we propose to defend their dubious record on privacy, we'd just like to point out that seeing they've already been caught, they're more likely to be on their best behaviour. And if they die, we'll probably conclude they deserved it.

But if they die because their cookies don't work any more, and if all of the other third party cookie tracking operations die for the same reason, leaving just the one big player with - oh woops - another monopoly, where does that get us? And you? In what sense is it different, if instead of being cookied by the Doubleclicks of this world, you're being cookied by Redmond? They've got a hell of a lot more they can sell you, of course - so is that a good thing? ®

Related stories:
MSN UK fails IE6 privacy standards - apparently

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