This is my first post so I thought I would introduce myself – I’m Ed Burns and I’m not a law student, nor do I play one on television, but I do provide development and support here at Legal Insurrection. Most of my work is behind the scenes but Bill thought this information was interesting and asked me to post it. My own blog is blogrescue.com, although it doesn’t get much attention from me as I’m usually too busy rescuing blogs.

We recently had a few complaints from LI readers that the back button in Internet Explorer was not working properly on the site. There was a fad about 5 years ago where sites would try to make visits more ‘sticky’ by disabling the back button and forcing all clicked links to open in a different window. Fortunately that was short-lived and we are definitely not doing anything like that intentionally or otherwise here at Legal Insurrection. However, I checked into the complaints and found that they had merit – the back button does not work on this site in IE9 and IE8 (and probably not in IE7 or the previous version which must not be named).

A little research revealed that the problem is caused by an incompatibility between Internet Explorer and Google AdSense ads and affects thousands of sites across the web that use Google Ads (like this one). At this point, neither party will admit fault, so we are stuck until either one side caves or a third party develops a solution (probably most likely).

The amusing part is that the back button is actually working…just not in the way you would expect it to work. In Internet Explorer, when a page is loaded, the address of the prior page is added to the history stack. However, IE is also pushing the current page url to the history stack for every Google Ad that is loaded. So when the back button is pressed, it attempts to go back to the prior page, which is the same as the current page and nothing appears to happen. However, if you press the button enough times and all of the extra instances of the current page have been removed from the stack, the browser will finally go back to the previous page.

Here at Legal Insurrection, on a single post page, I found that hitting the Back button 11 times would finally take me back to the previous page. We would like to resolve this but there is currently no fix. Rest assured that if we do find a way to remedy this issue, it will be taken care of immediately. In the meantime, IE users might want to take a look at Firefox or Chrome or Safari.

As serious as this problem is, I did find it amusing that the AdSense terms of service expressly forbid serving ads on a page where the navigation buttons are not provided, yet it is their code that is rendering these buttons inoperable on Internet Explorer:

Ads are not permitted in any window that is not initiated by a user’s click. Additionally, we do not permit ads to be placed in any window which lacks navigational controls, including back and forward browse buttons, and an editable URL field. AdSense ad code may also not be implemented on webpages where navigational elements have been removed.

In their defense, it does just state that the navigation buttons have to exist…and not that they have to function properly.