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I hope I've got the right part of StackExchange, as this is sort of a weird question.

Lately I noticed that occasionally whenever I opened an NYTimes.com page via a link, the top left hand corner of the web page would always have a string of five alphanumeric characters in small font. While loading the page it would also display this string, except at a larger font.

An example I just encountered:

The link on http://news.ycombinator.com

NYTimes URL: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/08/02/knight-capital-says-trading-mishap-cost-it-440-million/?hp

At first the five character string was "10a98", and after refreshing the NYT page it became "10a8d". I'm using Firefox 13.0.1 on Ubuntu 12.04. Attempts to reproduce another site showing this string failed, but I am very sure that I've seen it quite a few times, and I do believe that this behaviour is not limited to NYTimes.

Edit 1: A screenshot of the same page with the string in the top left hand corner is here: http://imgur.com/a/IMjP5 Taken with and without Firefox's safe mode.

Edit2: I tried the same website, from the same link on HN, on a laptop (with Firefox 14.0.1), and I get the same exact string that I currently have on the desktop (10ab5).

What is the cause of this? Is it possible that it has something to do with the fact that this is the first NYTimes site I browsed during this session?

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It could be add-on related. Try Firefox Safe Mode and see if you still experience this. Screenshots would be helpful. –  iglvzx Aug 2 '12 at 16:45
    
Just did that, with and without firefox safe mode. It looks like the same thing happens though (I actually don't run any add-ons, but just to be safe right?). –  Soyuz Aug 2 '12 at 16:57
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1 Answer

It looks like this might be failing on the flash display. There should be a flash ad in the space between the "dealbook" caption and the story headline. These flash ads change content on each refresh. Perhaps the numbers you are seeing are the flash displays output generic text without any html for something like the ad number? These numbers aren't visible in the 3 browsers I've tred that have flash enabled.

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about:plugins shows me that flash is enabled, and the flash ads on youtube that work. Checking the source, the first line is the five character alphanumeric string, with no tags. But what you said about the ads is interesting, though. Are there any other plugins that you suggest I test that an ad may use? –  Soyuz Aug 2 '12 at 17:35
    
The blank flash section on your image looks suspicious. Not sure how to disable flash on firefox, but try Chrome and with it disable the flash plugin (use address chrome:plugins, and then click the "disable" for the flash plugin). Then reopen Chrome, and it will use its internal flash plugin with limited flash functionality. (PepperFlash). This will test that page without your currrently configured version of flash player plugin. –  jdh Aug 2 '12 at 18:49
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