New Apache 'Patch' Nixes Microsoft's Do-Not-Track Setting
A computer programmer has written a "patch" for Apache's software that renders Microsoft's upcoming do-not-track command ineffective.
Roy Fielding, a principal scientist at Adobe Systems, created the patch, which effectively nullifies the default do-not-track settings that are slated for Internet Explorer 10. If the patch becomes part of Apache, the move will have a wide-ranging effect because most Web publishers use Apache's open-source software.
Fielding, who previously served as chairman of the Apache Software Foundation, posted the patch last month. But it didn't draw much attention until late this week, when other programmers began discussing it online. CNET first published news of the program on Friday.
Fielding is among a group of computer programmers with "commit" privileges at Apache, which means that his patch will be incorporated in the next version of the software unless reversed.
Fielding indicated that he created the patch because he disapproved of Microsoft's controversial decision to enable do-not-track by default in the upcoming IE10. "Apache does not tolerate deliberate abuse of open standards," Fielding wrote on a message board for developers.
Microsoft's planned do-not-track settings have generated significant controversy since the company announced them earlier this year, but not everyone agrees that they violate "open standards."
The company said in May that it intended to activate do-not-track by default in the upcoming version of IE10. But last month, Microsoft announced a revision to the original plan. The company said in a blog post that Windows 8 will offer users two choices at installation: "express settings" or customized. Only the express settings will include do-not-track by default.
The headers themselves don't block tracking cookies. Instead, they serve as a signal that users don't want to be tracked. The patch strips out that signal from the server.
The Internet standards group World Wide Web Consortium -- which currently is trying to craft recommendations for how companies should respond to the headers -- says that users should give "explicit and informed consent" to do-not-track, but also says there's no agreement yet about how to define the term.
On Thursday, some other programmers involved with Apache said in comments that they disapproved of Fielding's patch, known as a "commit."
"There's just so many things wrong with this commit," wrote one critic. "You don't find it just a little wrong that users are going to think this is turned on, yet you guys are just turning it off?"