Sitemeter Kills Thousands Of Sites For IE Users

In yet another case of widgets going crazy and causing havoc, a bug in Sitemeter has caused a large number of websites and blogs using the free web analytics tool to fail loading for users of Internet Explorer. Users of Google’s Blogger were amongst the first to report experiencing problems with sites running Sitemeter at 6pm pacific time on Friday. The problem has since been partially rectified, although some 16 hours later and without a notification or official response from the company either via email or on their blog.

Sitemeter proudly displays a list of the most highly trafficked sites running their service on their homepage. The sites include the entire Gawker Media network, the gossip blogger PerezHilton and the popular political blog DailyKos. We verified that all of these sites were failing to load in Internet Explorer, with nothing more than a blank page and a response in the form IE error window indicating a connection issue with The issue also affected our own Techcrunch France blog, which resorted to removing the sitemeter code as the only solution. The browser error indicates that the problem was with the Javascript code that is included in each page.

Uptime monitoring services such as Netcraft did not report any downtime for these sites, since the issue was Javascript and browser-specific rather than a broader HTTP connection issue. The main sitemeter website remained operational, while hundreds of bloggers posted about the problem and our tips mailbox filled with links and complaints on the issue.

Back in May, Michael wrote about how our own issues with widget providers on Techcrunch affected the performance and uptime of this site, and how having a provider not communicate such issues makes matters worse. There is no real reason for a widely used service such as Sitemeter to go down, as there are solutions available (such as using an IFRAME) where a fault in embedded code can be bypassed and at least allow the remainder of the page to load. Worse still, there is no real reason as to why, after 16 hours since the problems surfaced, there is no official word from the company despite the level of noise from users and visitors to the sites who have embedded the service.

Update: Turns out that this was the result of a bug in Internet Explorer, which the Sitemeter developers didn’t account or test for. The technical details and a description of the bug involved are here. Does this still mean that Sitemeter are to blame, or are we about to see the backlash shift to Microsoft because of a known bug and a developer not testing.