This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 1997-09-25 at 12:00 p.m.
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Question: Who's Visiting My Web Site?

by Glenn Fleishman

Question: Who's Visiting My Web Site? I'd like to know exactly who comes to my home page. Is this possible?

Answer: It's almost impossible to know exactly who visits your Web site, even though you can learn many details about visits to your site. In future issues of NetBITS, we'll address this in more detail. In short, most Web servers keep logs that record lots of information, including the remote machine names and IP numbers, a timestamp to the second, the page requested, and often the page where the user was before clicking a link to your page.

Using special software, you can aggregate and analyze log information so you can see patterns of usage, from where traffic originates, which sites refer the most traffic to you, and which pages get the most visits. But, there's no good way to identify individuals unless they want to register at your site. In addition, setting up registration is so difficult that only a few major sites have done so. The most notable example is the New York Times, which has accumulated over a million registered users.