Originally, critics accused the Internet and e-businesses of failing to provide the kind of customized service typically experienced in “brick-and-mortar” stores. To address this problem, e-businesses began to establish mechanisms by which they could personalize us-ers’ browsing experiences, tailoring content to individual users while enabling them to by-pass irrelevant information. Businesses achieve this level of service by tracking each customer’s movement through the Internet and combining the collected data with infor-mation provided by the consumer, including billing information, personal preferences, in-terests and hobbies.
Personalization makes it possible for e-businesses to communicate effectively with their customers and also improves users’ ability to locate desired products and services. Compa-nies that provide content of particular interest to users can establish relationships with cus-tomers and build on those relationships over time. Furthermore, by targeting consumers with personal offers, recommendations, advertisements, promotions and services, e-busi-nesses create customer loyalty. Websites can use sophisticated technology to allow visitors to customize home pages to suit their individual needs and preferences. Similarly, online shopping sites often store personal information for customers, tailoring notifications and special offers to their interests. Such services encourage customers to visit sites more fre-quently and make purchases more regularly.
A trade-off exists, however, between personalized e-business service and protection of pri-vacy. Some consumers embrace the idea of tailored content, but others fear the possible adverse consequences if the info they provide to e-businesses is released or collected by tracking technologies. Consumers and privacy advocates ask: What if the e-business to which we give personal data sells or gives that information to another organization without our knowledge? What if we do not want our actions on the Internet—a supposedly anon-ymous medium—to be tracked and recorded by unknown parties? What if unauthorized parties gain access to sensitive private data, such as credit card numbers or medical history? All of these are questions that must be debated and addressed by programmers, consumers, e-businesses and lawmakers alike.
To provide personalized services to consumers, e-businesses must be able to recognize cli-ents when they request information from a site. As we have discussed, the request/response system on which the web operates is facilitated by HTTP. Unfortunately, HTTP is a state-less protocol. This means that web servers cannot determine whether a request comes from a particular client or whether the same or different clients generate a series of requests.
Note that our previous examples set the Web Form’s EnableSessionState property to False. However, because we wish to use session tracking in the following examples, we keep this property’s default setting—True.
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