Updates & Writing

What happens when you first open a browser?

Developer Jonathan Sampson has taken a look at the requests various browsers make when you open them in their default state after installing.

He has tested:

Most browsers make a huge number of requests and, depending on the browser, a surprising amount of information is sent via HTTP headers.

The requests don’t seem nefarious. In some instances, the browser downloads plugins for services like Google Chromecast or Microsoft Skype, or downloads icons for website bookmarks.

Opera is singled out for sending a strange amount of personal information. There are details about the device you’re using, a unique identifier, and it even lets the remote servers know that you are setting up a new profile in Opera.

It’s a weirdly helpful dataset to allow third-party websites to begin tracking your activity. And this is what happens after you install the browser and before you actually browse the web.

It’s a disappointing default in a time when users are increasingly, and rightly, uncomfortable with their browsing history and online behaviour being tracked and sold.