Open Source Web Analytics

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Introduction

I am a big fan of trying out new online marketing tools. Piwik, an open source web analysis tool, is one such tool I recently implemented. Piwik’s clearly stated goal is to become the open source alternative to Google Analytics. In this article I will examine whether Piwik is worth taking a look at.

Note: There are plenty of excellent sites out there that provide detailed installation tutorials. The focus here is on Piwik as a tool for analyzing website traffic and its implications on the Web Analytics industry. The installation in WordPress, however, was a breeze, and is now in fact even easier if you use the recently released WordPress plugin.

Compelling Reasons

Despite its alpha release status, there are a couple of compelling reasons why Piwik is a tool that should be watched in the coming months.

  1. Data Ownership: Since Piwik is installed on your server, the data is captured only by you and therefore resides safely in your databases. This addresses a major concern of many businesses that distrust the mighty Google.
  2. Open Source: With the support of the open source community behind it, Piwik has the potential to evolve into a feature-rich web analytics tool. If integrated with the open source ad server, OpenX, Piwik would have a similar set up as Google Analytics and Google AdWords.
  3. Flexibility: Web analysts will love the customizable user interface and the ability to embed stats directly in websites. The open APIs enable flexible data extraction in multiple formats making data analysis a joy.

Implications on the Web Analytics market

The open source movement is catching on. Even Microsoft now acknowledges that open source is a major threat.  However, it will take some time before Piwik (and OpenX) become viable alternatives for established businesses. For Piwik to really make waves in the market will require a feature set that is far superior to Google Analytics. Data ownership and the open APIs are a great start.

I will continue to run Piwik and Google Analytics on this site and stay up to date with new releases. Over time, I will run comparisons between the two services. Even if Piwik does not live up to its promise, I can only hope that the added competition encourages Google to add more features such as open APIs to its analytics tool.

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