Yahoo! has announced that it will ignore the default "Do Not Track" (DNT) signal broadcast by Microsoft Internet Explorer 10, on grounds that it does not accurately reflect user intent.
"Recently, Microsoft unilaterally decided to turn on DNT in Internet Explorer 10 by default, rather than at users' direction," a Yahoo! spokesperson said in a statement on Friday. "In our view, this degrades the experience for the majority of users and makes it hard to deliver on our value proposition to them."
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), browser vendors, and other industry bodies have been collaborating on DNT as a means to allow web users to opt out of certain kinds of behavior-tracking by websites and ad networks.
But reaching consensus has proven difficult, with several vendors moving ahead with competing implementations of the standard. None has acted as aggressively as Microsoft, however, which has configured its latest browser to send the DNT signal to every website automatically, unless users explicitly turn it off.
Naturally, that move has angered online advertisers, who have accused Redmond of everything from undercutting the effectiveness of their ads (fair enough) to "undermining American innovation and leadership in the internet economy" (more of a stretch).
But advertisers aren't the only ones who think Microsoft has gone too far. The W3C itself has recommended that any DNT standard should be opt-in. And in September, the developers of the open source Apache web server announced that future versions of the software would ignore IE10's DNT setting, stating, "Apache does not tolerate deliberate abuse of open standards."
Yahoo!'s own policy on DNT has been a bit wobbly. In March it began adding support for DNT headers to some of its web properties, claiming it would allow users "to express their ad targeting preferences." Previously, however, the portal site's chief privacy wonk had been lukewarm on the technology, having said, "When a consumer puts Do Not Track in the header, we don't know what they mean."
With its latest announcement, Yahoo! seems to have swung back to the side of skepticism toward DNT. While the company says that it supports DNT "in principle," it adds that the current lack of a standard implementation means the tool "can be easily abused."
What this move means for Yahoo!'s DNT support for browsers other than Internet Explorer is not immediately clear. The company says it is committed to working with the W3C to product a DNT standard that "both satisfies user expectations and provides the best Internet experience possible."
What does seem increasingly plain, however, is that Microsoft's stance on DNT has backfired. As a growing number of websites ignore IE10's DNT setting, it may turn out that whenever an industry-wide DNT standard does become finalized, Internet Explorer users will be the only ones who can't take advantage of it. ®