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How can I set a web page to be opened ONLY ONCE on a computer?

Posted on 2006-10-20
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-26
I want to e-mail a brochure and include a link so someone can log in to a web page and print a coupon out. BUT - I am trying to figure a way to keep them from
1. Saving the page to their computer...that's possible, I know.
2. Keep them from logging in to the page again.

Question by:jimmysupport
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LVL 54

Expert Comment

ID: 17777970

Will the link or login be unique?  If so then you just keep track of those used and don't let it be used again.  This will require server side script and probably some type of database.  At least a database would  be best but you could use some file.  Let me know if you need more details but I will need to know what server side language your server supports or you want to use (e.g. ASP, PHP, Perl).

Let me know if you have any questions or need more information.


Expert Comment

ID: 17778943
As b0lsc0tt said, this can only be done with server side scripting on the web server. The web server would drop a cookie on the client machine, then always check for the cookie upon future visits and deny access.

Author Comment

ID: 17780876
But if it depended on a cookie, the person could erase the cookie and log in again. I am thinking if I required a name and e-mail address I could use a database as he mentioned.

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Expert Comment

ID: 17781476
Yes, the database solution is a good one, but more involved architecture and not really any more reliable. What keeps one from using multiple names and email addrs to get another coupon. In reality, if someone wants to cheat the system, they can figure out how unless you require biometrics or the like :)
It's all a matter of preference and what you feel would work best for your user base.
The other much more complicated solution is to require pre-registration, then generate coupons with a unique barcode, have the POS system record used barcoded coupons and reject duplicates. The company I manage actually has this system in place.
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 2000 total points
ID: 17781484
"... How can I set a web page to be opened ONLY ONCE on a computer? " ==>  You can't.  At least not reliably (as you noted, cookies won't work for this, since they're easily bypassed).

"... I am trying to figure a way to keep them from:"

  "... 1. Saving the page to their computer...that's possible, I know." => but again, easy to bypass;

  "... 2. Keep them from logging in to the page again. " ==>  This is, as noted above, the easy way to do what you want, by using a simple database and requiring a name/e-mail login.

HOWEVER ... if your goal is to keep them from printing out more than one coupon, that simply isn't achievable.   Too many ways to bypass it;  and even if you did, how could you differentiate between an "original" and a copy ??

If you provide more details about exactly what you're trying to achieve, there may be a way :-)
LVL 54

Expert Comment

ID: 17781625
When I made my comment I assumed that the email or link would be unique.  You provided them login information and then my solution would allow you to make sure it was only used once.  If you can't provide a unique login to them then it would be much more difficult, if not impossible, to prevent abuse.  If the printed coupon was customized in some way, maybe the login info, then even if more than one was printed only one could be used.

I hope this clarifies my comment.  We made need more details, like Gary asked for, if this doesn't help or won't work.

Expert Comment

ID: 17782514
You can't keep someone from saving it as it could easily be printed to a PDF Printer or I could do the old fashioned Print Screen.  

Expert Comment

ID: 17784379
No matter how you attempt to solve the coupon abuse issue, the real focus should be at the point of redemption. Assuming the point of redemption is a POS system, it requires a very smart POS system to detect duplicate coupon use.

We had a couple of coupon users/abusers that would screenshot the coupon page, save as PDF and publish on news groups.  We built a system that would detect them at database update time and flag them... never to receive future coupons.

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