When you type in your favorite news site, many expect a single communication session between the requester and the website. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. In fact, this probably hasn’t been the case since the mid-90s. The integration of social media, user tracking software, and other owned web properties has created a “one-to-many” website viewing experience.

To illustrate what we mean, we ran a packet capture on a laptop, visited five of the most popular online news sites (not aggregators like Google News), decoded the DNS requests, and measured the total count of queries for each original news site user request. For the sake of brevity we’ll call this metric the “Chatty Metric”.

Capturing the data was relatively easy. Using tshark, the following filters were used:

$ tshark -T fields -e ip.src -e dns.qry.name -Y "dns.flags.response eq 0"

This captured any DNS queries on the default (active) ethernet interface. With the tshark capture running, It was only a matter of visiting the news sites and analyzing the queried domains. As you can see from the chart all of the sites tested were relatively chatty. FOX NEWS, however, takes the crown with 41 unique DNS requests per visit.



The “original domain to additional queries” data is shown below using an Alluvial Diagram.



A couple of parting thoughts:

1)¬†The number of queries to “improve our experience” and “track our patterns” is, in a word, ridiculous

2) Would the end user experience change that drastically if we cut out 10% of the extra queries? What about 50%? 80%?

3) Long gone are the days of one request, one website

Thanks for reading.

This post is categorized in: