What does __utma mean?

What does it mean when you see things like:

?__utma=1.32168570.1258672608.1258672608.1259628772.2&__utmb=1.4.10.1259628772&

etc in the the url string?

Maybe it’s simple, but I’m thinking it’s something I’m not aware of because I see it every now and again.

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Answers

They are URL parameters, they pass information back to the web server.

protocol://username:[email protected]:port?parameterList#anchorName

Example:

http://stackoverflow.com:80/page?param1=value1&param2=value2

  • The #anchorName will skip you to a certain part of an HTML page
  • The parameterList portion is also called the query
  • The protocol portion is also called the scheme
  • The username:password part can be ommitted
  • The port will default to 80 if the protocol is HTTP and the port is not specified
  • If you don’t specify the protocol in a web browser, it will default to HTTP.
  • You will often want to have a single page do multiple things. This is accomplished by accepting different parameters. These parameters will typically pass information to the server which will modify how the next page is displayed, or how another action is performed on the server
  • Sometimes URL parameters are replaced with nice looking URL paths. This is accomplished with newer web frameworks like ASP .NET MVC, Django, Ruby on Rails, etc…

There is a much more detailed description from what I gave in RFC 3986: Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax.

It is related to google analytics… it’s used for their tracking. Although I suspect Brian’s answer answers what you were really asking…

Here’s a good link to explain them. They are cookies used by google analytics to track information on your website.

utma-_utmb-and-_utmc-cookies/”>http://www.analyticsexperts.com/google-analytics/information-about-the-utmlinker-and-the-_utma-_utmb-and-_utmc-cookies/

(Last known version from internet archive)

Your browser don’t support cookies. That’s the reason you see it in the url. In fact google use cookies __utma, __utmb, __utmc, __utmz to track information. When cookies are disabled – browser pass this information throught URL as GET param.

The __utma Cookie This cookie is what’s called a “persistent” cookie, as in, it never expires (technically, it does expire…in the year 2038…but for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend that it never expires, ever). This cookie keeps track of the number of times a visitor has been to the site pertaining to the cookie, when their first visit was, and when their last visit occurred. Google Analytics uses the information from this cookie to calculate things like Days and Visits to purchase.

The __utmb and __utmc Cookies The B and C cookies are brothers, working together to calculate how long a visit takes. __utmb takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor enters a site, while __utmc takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor leaves a site. __utmb expires at the end of the session. __utmc waits 30 minutes, and then it expires. You see, __utmc has no way of knowing when a user closes their browser or leaves a website, so it waits 30 minutes for another pageview to happen, and if it doesn’t, it expires.

[By Joe Teixeira]