Browser-based Tracking is the Stats Answer

Over the past year or so the frustration with web statistics tracking services along the lines of Alexa and Comscore has grown. As companies look for validation, VCs look to measure potential investments, and bloggers find interesting things to talk about, accurate stat services are something everyone wants.

Yet people are frustrated with the current offerings. It has lead to the launch (or at least growth in prominence) of and Quantcast. I like seeing more players in the field, and I especially like how Quantcast actually allows publishers to put a tracking tag on your site to give them accurate data. Now, the problem is that although my data is accurate since I choose to send data to Quantcast, it’s only a small minority of sites out there participating. When you put the effort on the publisher’s side without providing them obvious benefits, it’s hard to expect much of an uptake.

We know the “panel approach” or “sampling” of web visitors has its flaws. We know the Alexa toolbar approach has its flaws. We know the Quantcast tag approach will struggle to get enough publishers using it. So how do we get reliable data?

One thought I’ve had is if there was some sort of Firefox/browser plugin that people could use that reported your browsing data to a central service that then made rankings based on that. The problem is it’d be skewed towards the Firefox audience, and what is in it for the average web user to want that plugin?

So what if Firefox just did this by default? Maybe it was a privacy option they allowed you to turn off. Of course it would be anonymous, but Firefox itself could become a ranking service based on data it collects from users. Perhaps Microsoft could do this with IE, but I think people would be less trusting of their use of data compared to Firefox.

I’m sure there’s reasons the browsers can’t/won’t do this I’m not really thinking of, but what’s stopping Firefox from also ranking sites and providing us the closest thing we could get to accurate traffic statistics?

  • Mike Nolet

    Assuming that most sites use advertising, why not have an ad-exchange/adserving provider supply the statistics for sites? This way there are no issues with privacy and there’s a centralized body that collects and shares all the statistics?

    IAB could even set standards and audit like they love to do.


  • ron

    I believe there’re more users with more than one browser installed on their computers. The data that’d be collected this way could get skewed some how.

    For now i think is more accurate data tracking system relative to the pack.

  • Pat McCarthy

    That’d be another good solution Mike, provided that ad exchange/provider hit a big enough portion of the web. It’d need to be something that got an ad call on every page for that site opposed to something like an ad network that sometimes only gets a portion of a site’s inventory.

  • Pat McCarthy

    Hi Ron,

    The data from browsers definitely wouldn’t be perfect, but it’d be a lot better than what we have today. From what I know of Compete they use both a toolbar and random sampling panel. If I’m right, how is that better?

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