Doop-de-doop, just adjusting the settings on Safari so’s it doesn’t keep opening up a new window every time I click a link. It’s one of the default settings in Safari that I really deplore. Maybe this made sense back when Safari first came out, and it was common to open new instances of a browser when you were doing something complicated like (gasp!) viewing two of the literally dozens of websites that were then in existence — at the same time! Wowee-zowie! It makes no sense for Safari to have defaults that make it act like Internet Explorer 3.0 or Netscape Navigator.

(Aside: have you ever tried to explain to someone younger than 20 what it was like to be “mousetrapped” back in the day? Do any of you remember what being “mousetrapped” on your browser was like? Hello? Is this thing on…?)

Anyway, I happened to click on the Security tab and then the Show Cookies button. Here’s what I saw:

list of absurd expiration dates for browser cookies

This is a short list of the cookies on my Mac. I've expunged some of the scary-looking hexcode on the right. Pay attention to the dates in the column in pink.

Yeah, that’s right. Some of the cookies on my computer won’t expire until nearly 30 years after I hit my 100th birthday. Most of the others will (supposedly) stay resident and not expire for another quarter-century.

Who does this? I mean, really? Is it really sensible in any way to assume that this computer, as much as I love & use it on a daily basis, will still be alive and kicking in more than 10 years? Or even 5? Have these guys even heard of Moore’s Law? I’m not bumming specifically on, because there are many other offenders, different only in degree.

But really, this is user abuse. Why would you cram something onto my machine that is so obviously useless, unless

  1. You figure your average user is too thickwitted to actually delete their cookies regularly, the way most websavvy users do (or at least try to – more about that in a bit)
  2. You arbitrarily picked a date far into the future because you couldn’t be bothered to take the extra 30 seconds to actually consider the needs of your audience;
  3. You are being sneaky and underhanded, and you’re either planting what amounts to spyware on my computer, or you are actively engaging in the practice of Zombie Cookies.

It is #3 above that really gets my goat. It exploits the users’ trust, relying on the same obliviousness that makes so many of us just click on the “I Agree” button when faced with these labyrinthine EULAs & suchlike. This is short-term thinking. And it is wrong.

This has changed the way that I look at the sites that have placed these kinds of hidden, ill-considered material on my computer. I pass this on in the hopes that other users voice their concerns as well — only if enough people start becoming aware of shady practices like this will companies start policing themselves.

Useful stuff: If you want Safari to stop acting like Internet Explorer/Netscape circa 1997, here’s what you do:

  1. Under the Safari menu, click on “Preferences” (⌘,)
  2. Click on the Tabs tab (and yes, I know how that sounds, but that’s what it is)
  3. Click on the pulldown menu next to “Open pages in tabs instead of windows” and choose anything other than “Never”