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Back Button Woes (but only in Internet Explorer)

Back Button Woes (but only in Internet Explorer)

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, 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.


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Well…. OK. But I want a two cent per word raise in my posting rate.

DINORightMarie | February 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

“Like” as in I use Firefox. 😀

I’ve asked the guards to put in a request to have our cell block computer switched over to Google Chrome.

I, too, have that problem of not being able to back out of your site. But I am so inept at computer stuff that I automatically think I am personally at fault. Thanks for the explanation. It saves me from going to the local technician to see if he could fix it.

The only other site that gives me a real problem is Rasmussen.

Download NoScript freeware and disable EVERYTHING including AdSense. I use Firefox which is a major improvement over IE but with NoScript, it is amazing how fast your computer can be and with fewer problems. With NoScript, you allow only those features you need site-by-site so there is a learning process and it takes patience at first. But it’s worth it.

Strange, I use IE 8 and 9 and have never had a problem with the back button….

johnnycab23513 | February 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

As this is the only site I am addicted to that has this problem, I right click the back button and left click my home page to back out.

    When I have to use IE, I’ve worked around this issue by not clicking on links but right-clicking and doing “open in a new tab” so that when I’m done looking at the link, I can just close the tab and be back where I was.

Reading about bugs in IE is liking reading about grammar anomalies in an ancient Mayan dialect. It has some intellectual appeal, but no bearing on my daily life whatsoever.

wonder if mouse software works when button click does not. tried it in ie8 and 9 last night and seemed fine here.
however I never actually click back button, just use mouse button.
course I use FF normally too 🙂

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Neo. | February 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    You know, I said to myself, “don’t click it, don’t click it, just don’t” and clicked it anyway, and now I’m blind. Thank you very much, Mr. Neo. Do you know how much a braille monitor costs?

Yeah, just switched back to Firefox after using IE 9 for a time. When in IE 9 and go out to some sites, especially from a news aggregator who must not be named, using the “go back” button doesn’t always work. So thanks for explaining why that’s the case.

This is the same type of unforced errors made in web technology, so-called “C” programming languages, and other such touchy feely activities. Never understood how the world wide web and the internet could be designed without a real concern for integrity and security; those seem to have been added on after-the-fact. Of course, Algol, my all time, mostly, programming language was developed without any regard to input output requirements, as was the CDC 1604 operating system way back then; well, at a least not in terms of I/O procedures per se’; jeez, what were they thinking, that’d we’d all use the toggles on the dashboard? Jeez, a person’s mind could go numb after sitting at a console all day long.

    Doug Wright in reply to Doug Wright. | February 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Reminds me of my all-time favorite movie line, from Lawrence of Arabia, when the Tony Quinn character said: “He’s not perfect!” Well, that could also be said about Firefox, but it is perfectly adequate most times.

The fix for the issue lies here:
or here

Assuming you aren’t trapped in IE (work policy or some such)

Firefox—problem solved.

9thDistrictNeighbor | February 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Not to mention the Safari load-ancient-cache-back-button problem on the iphone. “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature….”

    Is that the thing were you hit the back button and it takes you to a version of the previous screen three weeks ago? It is both aggravating and eerie at the same time.

    Upgrading the iPhone to the new software was a BIG mistake and it is not reversible.


firefox with ie tab for those that need IE for specific sites

IE 9 behaves exactly as it should, AdSense has intentional designed their advertisements to achieve this behavior. To work-around this ploy by AdSense (and there are others), simply right click the back arrow and then select the site to which you’d like to go from the history list presented. It some cases, there may be so many of the AdSense links in the history list that the site you wish may not appear. You can select the last item then rinse and repeat as necessary or just navigate to another page from the favorites list.

Firefox with Adblock Plus and NoScript plugins is the best most hassle-free surfing experience I have found. Please be respectful though and whitelist good sites like this or patterico or whomever. What little they receive from blogads is their reward for all the work they’ve put into their sites.

Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable and expected to block out all advertising on sites like Huffpo or CNN.

I have to agree with rdmdawg – adBlockers help you but they certainly don’t help the sites you visit. I believe IE should fix this issue (or Google) so users aren’t required to use AdBlockers for things to function normally.

Another solution (sort of) that helps with Web annoyances such as cookies and ad downloads is controlling cookies. In IE it’s done this way.

Click Tools on the menu bar at the top of your screen, then Internet Options in the drop down box. Click the Privacy tab, then the “Advanced” button. Check “Override automatic cookie handling” and click the Prompt radio button in the First-party Cookies column and either the Block or Prompt radio button under Third-party Cookies column. (Bonus; you can manage pop-ups while you’re here)

The first time you visit a site you’ll be asked to decide on every cookie it tries to download (you may be surprised at how many), but you’ll only be asked the first time through unless you select the Prompt option, then you’ll have to decide every time. When you get to a site, you will be asked to decide whether to accept or reject – always or never – cookies from the site. The cookies are identified in the pop-up. It’s usually best to accept first-party cookies and reject the third-party cookies (sorry, professor), which are the ads, tracking sites, etc. Whether you choose to accept or reject cookies is a function of the site, what it’s used for and how often it’s visited. Many times the nature of the cookie can be gleaned from its name. The name can be cryptic and truncated, but they are usually decipherable, certainly to LI readers. Also, the same cookie is frequently encountered from multiple sites, if you‘ve chosen to block it elsewhere on another site, you’ll not be asked again.

Results of the accept-reject decision may be seen and reversed or changed. Click Tools on the menu bar, the Privacy tab, and then the Sites button; there you’ll be presented with a list of all cookies you’ve ever addressed. You can change from Always Allow to Always Block, or vice versa, or just remove it from the list, in which case you’ll be presented with the decision the next time a site tries to load it again.

Indirectly, this helps some with the Back Button. It also blocks some of the Professor’s tracking data and (sadly) perhaps a buck or two of income. Nevertheless, it’s a good capability to have for managing the IE browser.

I do not have the back-button problem with LI because I block ads on IE9. I stopped using Firefox with Windows 7 because it misbehaves when zoom-sizing my displays, but that is not the subject of your post.

The Professor doesn’t want to hear this, but no ads means no disruption on IE9.

People still use MSIE?

looks like someone tried rolling back to php4/dso/susphp or something.
got the d/l php option when opening page.

wonder if you could “fake” out IE and make it act better through user agent. hmm. maybe offer d/l to another browser LOL

I thought Internet Explorer was only used to download Firefox!
I learn new things every day!

Joseph Farnsworth | February 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Recently I noticed that my Google gmail account does not display normally anymore. A popup from Google suggests using CHROME (no kidding…”Can’t we all just get along?”) rather than IE as one’s browser. With XP as my OS, I can’t upgrade to IE9 from IE8. I wonder if CHROME can be supported by the increasingly long-of-tooth XP? As the Duchess of Cats…suggested yesterday, perhaps a hardware upgrade is the answer.

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

And, if anyone had any doubt that this blog was run by a lawyer… 😉

What is this all about, anyway? This is a great site where most people have intelligent comments to make. I don’t get it, but as my children say, “You are not old, you are ancient”.

Joseph Farnsworth | February 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm

It has to do with the hairy underbelly of the Internet – which we don’t have to understand or confront until it bites us on the … hairy underbelly.

Dear Peons,

All your back buttons r belong to us!

Love, Microsoft & Google

On a similar issue, I visit legalinsurrection from my Droid and I notice that when I open legalinsurrection from my browser it reloads the page repeatedly. It may reload 3 to 6 times or more before it stops.

I don’t know if you have a special mobile site or not but you may want to look into this. I can check this on an iPad2 with Safari if you like but I have not noticed this same behavior on my iPad2.

Joseph Farnsworth | February 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

I just set up Google’s CHROME and it is FAST, compared to IE8.
But it doesn’t like LegalInsurrection’s security certificates.