What is a Web Beacon?

Learn how web beacons (also known as web bugs) work.
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Unlike a lighthouse beacon, web beacons don't shine brightly. In fact, they aren't something you can even see while browsing the internet. Despite their lack of visibility, beacons work behind the scenes of many websites to monitor the site's traffic and the activity of people who visit it.

What are web beacons?

A web beacon is a clear picture file used to keep track of your navigation through a single website or a series of websites. Web beacons also go by the name of web bugs and are normally used by websites that use third party traffic monitoring and tracking services. Web beacons might be used in connection with cookies to gain an understanding of how a website's users navigate through and process the content contained in that website.

One example of web beacon usage is when a company that owns a collection of websites uses beacons to track how users travel among the websites within the company's network. This information might lead them to make network browsing more efficient and easier.

Are web beacons used to monitor web traffic?

A web beacon is a transparent image file used to monitor your journey around a single website or collection of sites. They are also referred to as web bugs and are commonly used by sites that hire third-party services to monitor traffic. They may be used in association with cookies to understand how visitors interact with the pages and content on the pages of a web site.

For example a company owning a network of sites may use web beacons to count and recognize users traveling around its network. Being able to recognize you enables the site owner to personalize your visit and make it more user friendly.