Microsoft has been banging the drum for this feature for months, hoping the publicity will win it browser share against Firefox and (more importantly) Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome.
But these other browsers already have this feature. The difference is that Microsoft proposes to make it the default. This caused the Association of National Advertisers to write a public nastygram to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, suitable for framing.
Ballmer, believe it or not, is the only winner in all this. The framed nastygram is the prize.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a pro-industry pressure group founded by two former Congresscritters, has even posted a refusal to obey such browser commands on its Web site. Heck, no, we'll still snoop. What do we want? Cookies. When do we want them? Always.
So what's happening, and what should investors take away from it?
As Politico (of all things) notes, just because a browser says "don't track" doesn't mean that ad networks from Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), AOL (NYSE:AOL), or Google aren't going to track. There's no enforcement mechanism, legal or technical. It's a request. It's not an order.
What all the hullabaloo amounts to is a shot across the bow of Congress, threatening the incoming Congresscritters with dire consequences if they let the public in on the real game -- namely, the fact that all this "do not track" stuff is kabuki, a phony controversy that the public can't hope to win.
It's Washington press 1, technology press 0. And for investors, much ado about nothing.
Disclosure: I am long GOOG, MSFT. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.