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Social Sharing Buttons Without Tracking

Updated on December 12, 2014
In addition to necessary resources from social networks, AddThis also loads content from several unrelated domains.
In addition to necessary resources from social networks, AddThis also loads content from several unrelated domains.

The Problem with Social Share Services like AddThis

The easiest way of adding social sharing buttons to your website or blog is using a service like AddThis, ShareThis, or AddToAny. These powerful tools track your social shares and clicks, offer customizable buttons, and (in most cases) load asynchronously without slowing your site down. Indeed, I've been a happy user of AddThis for over a year, and I still have their buttons on a few of my blogs. So why would anyone be unhappy with a great service like that?

Take a look at what resources are loaded by the AddThis script - this can be accomplished by certain browser plugins, or simply running your site through WebPageTest.org - and you will get your answer. You will quickly see that in addition to scripts from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and AddThis themselves (all necessary for the buttons to function properly), they also request something from the following domains:

  • b.scorecardresearch.com
  • ib.adnxs.com
  • cspix.media6degrees.com
  • ds.reson8.com
  • addthis.acxiom-online.com
  • d.turn.com
  • cc.chango.com

The good news is, despite the number of different domains contacted, this is unlikely to noticeably slow down your website. The bad news is, most of these are marketing companies which specialize in tracking online behavior. Some of this data might be for AddThis internal use only, while some could be used by, or sold to third-party advertising networks. All I know is that the stuff listed above is not necessary for the normal function of the share buttons.

Alternative #1: Socialite by tmort

Socialite might take some effort to set up, but it's well worth it if you want to cut out the middleman (AddThis) and load social sharing buttons yourself. You will still need scripts from Facebook Twitter, Google+, or whichever social network you decide to use, but you will avoid other third-party scripts and tracking beacons. Plus, socialite.js will be loaded from your own domain, so you will also reduce the number of DNS lookups, thus making your website a tiny bit faster.

Advantages: asynchronous loading. Creates classic Facebook Like, Twitter Share, Google+, etc. buttons without any third-party junk.

Disadvantages: you still need to load scripts from social networks themselves. Takes some time to modify for your needs.

http://socialitejs.com

Alternative #2: Basic Sharing via URL

Webmasters concerned about privacy or page load speed might want to drop "heavy" dynamic social sharing buttons altogether and implement sharing via URL instead. This much-overlooked method is as basic as it gets. You simply create links to share on Facebook, Twitter, etc. as follows:

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=yourlink
  • http://twitter.com/share?text=yourtext&url=yourlink
  • https://plus.google.com/share?url=yourlink

Links and titles can be plugged in easily in WordPress. Here's an example for Facebook:

<a href="https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=<?php the_permalink(); ?>" title="<?php the_title(); ?>" target="_blank">Share on Facebook</a>

Use basic text links, design your own buttons, or download one of the many free sets offered on the web. Even better, grab the beautiful Ridiculously Responsive Social Sharing Buttons which are SVG-based and change size depending on the visitor's screen resolution.

Advantages: extremely fast, highly customizable, no JavaScript whatsoever.

Disadvantages: no share counters, unless you implement internal tracking of some sort. Extra nofollow links on every page, which might be bad for your Google ranking.

Addendum: the Simple Share Buttons appear to use the same "share via URL" method, but they have figured out how to create share counters as well. In addition, they offer a WordPress plugin, which makes adding buttons very easy. Definitely something to consider if you want something that can be set up quickly. And, unlike AddThis, there's no third-party tracking. Excellent.

Share42 buttons as they appear on my website. I use SVG, so they will look good even on high-resolution Retina displays.
Share42 buttons as they appear on my website. I use SVG, so they will look good even on high-resolution Retina displays.

Alternative #3: Share42

This is what I ended up using on my biggest website after trying many different options. Share42 combines the best of both worlds: it creates basic sharing links (meaning no resources from Facebook, Pinterest, and so on are loaded) but it does so via JavaScript, so the links won't be indexed nor followed by search engines.

The tiny JavaScript file necessary to generate the sharing buttons is hosted on your own domain, and can even be tweaked according to your needs. It fires on window.onload, so it won't slow down your website. The buttons themselves are combined into a single file (CSS sprite method) which you can edit in your favorite graphics software. And you can even have counters, although that requires jQuery (most WordPress themes have it plugged in already).

Advantages: almost as fast as the previous method. JavaScript-generated, so you won't need to add several nofollow links to every page. Everything is hosted on your own domain, so it is fully customizable and you avoid additional DNS lookups.

Disadvantages: visitors who surf with JavaScript disabled won't see the sharing buttons. But is that really a problem?

http://share42.com/

We Must Choose Between What Is Easy and What Loads Fast

Services like AddThis or ShareThis make it easy to add social sharing buttons to your website and offer useful features like visitor and share analytics. However, if you are concerned about privacy and the load speed of your website, look for a "lighter", more basic alternative.

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