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The Net Takeaway: Open Source Web Analytics


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Open Source Web Analytics · 03/26/2008 10:53 AM, Analysis Marketing

It’s been a slow time for open source web analysis systems. At one point, there were dozens to play with. But the movement from log files to beacon tracking, along with the move to “free” for tools like Google Analytics and MSN Gatineau have really put a crimp on growth.

However, the desire to control your own data along with customization of interface has started some people coming back around.

The best I have seen is a young project called They have spent a great amount of time on making a fully customizable front end dashboard, and they’ve leveraged their back end from the work they did on the PHPMyVisites project (yes, the open source one with the heatmap). Anyway, you can see a demo of Piwik in action at the Piwik Online Demo.

It’s got lots of the good stuff, including sparklines, smart charts, the adjustable interface, and a clean look. But its also clearly an alpha, with a paucity of segmentation and filtering options.

Is it a Google Analysis killer? Not yet. And does it deliver anything unique that the other tools don’t? Well, not quite yet, though the dashboard component process is well done. But I think there is a lot of hope here, and I encourage the advanced web analytic community to start playing with this tool more, and consider giving our help to them.

There are others as well. Brett Bittke blogged about a good list on March 20th, 2008; List of Google Analytics Alternatives. He mentions the usual, including Awstats, which is preinstalled on most every shared host these days, and is one of the more comprehensive log file packages as well as the collection of “visitor count” systems like BBclone, which don’t really get into usage and instead just show simple aggregate PVs and user counts. He also mentions lots of cheap pay systems, most of which aren’t really delivering anything beyond Google’s system.

Awstats is really out of date, and I don’t think the “visitor counters” are all that useful, so we have nowhere to go but up.

(In fact, as I’ll post about soon, I don’t believe any of the “web analytic tools” are really there yet. But once you read my post about the commercial tools, and get past calling me an idiot, I think you’ll see that in some ways, the open source area may be our best hope to truly start understanding how people are using interactive media. It’s still baking, but look for it soon.)

I will be looking more deeply into Piwik, and I encourage my readers to do the same. It’s got a ways to go, but I think as a foundation, it’s one of the better ones to use as we create the next generation of web tracking systems… and perhaps, finally, earn the name “analytics”.

(PS: If you want to read more places where Open Source is dropping the ball, check out my post on PHP and BI.)

(PPS: I got tagged for not mentioning Open Web Analytics which is basically an open source framework for adding web analytics hooks to sites. It seems more techie than it needs to be, but find out more at their site or in this pdf.)

* * *


  1. 2.5 years later, Piwik isn’t so young of a project.

    If you were installing today, Piwik or OWA?

    Chris    Aug 20, 10:57 AM    #

  2. The blog you link to isn’t Matt Cutts of Google – it’s an Indian chap who appears to be running a blog under Matt’s name (unless I’ve missed something?)

    Andy    Nov 17, 04:16 AM    #

  3. Yep, that’s true. I didn’t think that was the case at the time, but it does seem to be the case now… And so link is removed.

    Michael Wexler    Nov 17, 07:17 AM    #

  4. Thank you for your useful article on open source web analytic. After seeing this article I decided to go with Piwik.

    Hypertension    Dec 10, 03:46 AM    #

  5. piwik really is a step up. It is beautiful and easy to use. Very customizable.

    Adam Clarke    Mar 8, 02:04 PM    #

  6. Piwik runs on PHP and MySQL; provides a drag-and-drop, widget-driven AJAX dashboard; allows you to track any number of Web sites; and supports multiple user accounts with basic access controls. Piwik is the best.

    last minute    Apr 17, 04:20 PM    #

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