I removed Google Analytics on this site over two years ago. It was doing more harm than good. I did not want to jeopardize readers’ privacy. I did not want to be part of the bullshit web. I did not want to contribute to Google’s massive data collection and its take over of the open web. I did not want to be Google’s product. (Because fuck Google.)
I rarely even looked at those analytics back then. However, since going independent last year, I have more interest in knowing and understanding the traffic on this site. I found a fantastic solution for analytics that is simple, private, and open source called GoatCounter.
Searching for alternatives
In my post about removing Google Analytics, I mentioned that Matomo (formerly Piwik) seemed like a promising alternative. Back when it was still Piwik it seemed very lightweight, but it has now evolved into an expensive and bloated corporate mess. It looks like it is still open source, which is great, but it is simply too much for my needs. With Google Analytics, I was drowning in options and jargon I did not understand, and superfluous data I did not want to collect. Matomo does not seem much different in that respect. I only really care about tracking page views and referrers.
Recently, I discovered exactly what I was looking for — GoatCounter is privacy-aware, lightweight, and simple. It collects no personal information and is pretty much just a simple page view counter. It is an indie project created by Martin Tournoij and it is entirely open source on GitHub. It is free for personal use, but I pay monthly so I can help support this project because I think it is incredibly important for a project like this to exist. And if for some reason the project is abandoned in the future, I can install it and run it on my own server.
Open for all
Finding an open source solution for analytics was critical, and a hard requirement for me. This entire site is open source, as are all of its dependencies, and I wanted to keep it that way.
In the spirit of openness, I wanted to go one step further — all of the analytics data is open source, too. You can view it yourself at stats.jessesquires.com. This data is exactly what I see. The only limitation of this public view is that it updates once per hour instead of in real time. (This is an opt-in feature, that to my knowledge is unique to GoatCounter, and I think it is pretty rad.)