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Some applications keep you on the same page as you browse – even though it looks like you are moving around. That might be happening here.

Recently, I noticed my computer's browsing history was only partly there. I went to Facebook and did quite a bit there however, the browsing history only shows me going to the homepage and doing nothing else. This isn't the case. It didn't use to do this, but it is now. I didn't change any settings in the browsing history. The only thing I did recently after it was noticed was to change from McAfee to Microsoft Security Essentials. What's going on possibly? This doesn't make any sense to me. Do I have a virus or spyware on the computer that I'm unaware of? I did recently somehow end up with StaffCop loaded on my computer, which I can't get rid of. Uninstall doesn't work and the company's no help getting rid of it. If you can tell me how to get rid of that as well, I'd appreciate it.

In this excerpt from Answercast #44, I look at a case where Facebook pages are not being displayed in history and what might be causing it.

Uninstalling questionable programs

So for Staff Cop, whatever it is. I've never heard of it, so this is just my stock answer for removing things that won't remove:

  • I have an article about Revo Uninstaller that I'm going to direct you at.

  • It is a utility that (basically, the way I characterize it...) uninstalls things that can't be uninstalled.

It does a thorough scan of your system to remove things related to a specific application that you might want to uninstall. So I'll start you there.

Browsing history

Now, as for browsing history, this is where things get weird.

  • There's certainly a possibility that your anti-malware tools are interfering a little bit.

That can happen. Since you're using Microsoft Security Essentials, I don't think it is. It is possible that some anti-malware tools could:

  • Insert themselves into your browser in such a way that they try to protect you from things that you browse to;

  • But in the process they actually interfere with how the browser operates.

So, that can be a problem. I don't think it is in your case.

It's certainly possible that there's malware but again, this is not something that to me sounds like malware.

Website design

This to me sounds like something much more benign and unfortunately much more difficult to explain. I believe it's website design.

Facebook has been changing their design, in large and small ways, probably since the day they started. Certainly, they've been making lots and lots of changes over time to:

  • How they actually produce the pages;

  • What gets displayed on the pages;

  • How you navigate around the Facebook website.

One of the things that web pages can do is they can do all of that (they can do anything actually...)

  • Without changing the URL.

In other words, you go to Facebook.com. While you might see yourself going from page to page, from this to that; on another website (a normal website);

  • That would involve going from one URL to another.

Coded pages

Applications don't do that. If you go to Gmail for example – it's very likely that opening an email, or previewing an email, or just scrolling around in your email list doesn't actually change the URL that shows up in the address bar:

  • Because you never really leave the page.

What's happening is that Gmail is changing what's displayed on the page in real time as you're interacting with it. It is very possible that Facebook is doing something similar – at least for the kinds of pages that you are visiting.

  • So it's very possible that from the browser's perspective, you were on one page the entire time.

And that's what it put in the history:

  • The one URL that you went to,

  • That showed up in the history,

  • And now everything that you did on Facebook was done without changing from page to page (or from URL to URL),

  • But simply by changing the contents of the one page that you're constantly looking at.

You were on one page the whole time

Like I said, it's hard to explain.

But it is possible, I think it's very possible that that's what's going on here. That it is a side effect of how the website is designed that's preventing the page to page movement that History is designed to save for you from being recorded:

  • Because Facebook isn't doing it by going from page to page.

  • It's just changing the contents of the one page that you are looking at.

Like I said, I could be wrong.

Facebook may not be operating like this (and after I record this I'm going to take a look), but the point is that websites can operate this way.

  • I know that some of the things that Facebook does certainly does operate this way;

  • So a lot of it will also depend on exactly what you're doing on Facebook; but that's my guess.

I don't suspect malware. I think the chances of anti-malware tools interfering with you are pretty low. I really do think that this could be nothing more than a (albeit frustrating) side effect of how a particular website, Facebook in this case, has been designed.

End of Answercast #44 Back to – Audio Segment

Article C5705 - August 16, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Ken
August 17, 2012 11:12 AM

StaffCop is a "monitoring program" normally installed by employers on the staffs computers to spy on their activity.

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