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Sitemeter vs Statcounter April 15, 2007

Posted by Tim in Science/Tech.

I read a blog today about Sitemeter installing “extra” stuff on the clients that load pages with the Sitemeter code.

Digging a little on the Net found more information: Apparently Statcounter, a competing website counter provider, was approached by an advertiser and offered $ to install data miners in all member sites. From their original post:

A few months back, StatCounter was approached by an advertiser, offered lots of $$$, and asked to include a spyware cookie on all of our member sites…we refused on the spot.

You install StatCounter to track visitors to your site NOT to open yourself and your visitors up to being spied upon by phantom advertising corporations.

It appears, however, that other players in the world of webstats were happy to take up this offer…

We were shocked to discover just today that another well known stats provider is allowing up to 9 cookies to be installed in the browser of every visitor that hits one of their member websites. This means that the provider is making money by transmitting data on you and your visitors to a third party advertiser. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, the cookies are causing the member websites to load very slowly too.

Although Statcounter didn’t name the “other well known stats provider”, it didn’t take long for people to realize that it was Sitemeter, which led to people migrating away in droves. You can read an explanation from Sitemeter here (in the comments section).

To make things more clear for those who aren’t tech-savvy, most stat counters work by putting a cookie in the browsers of everyone who visits your page. This is so that the stat counters can identify unique users. What Sitemeter does is to place nine additional cookies from advertisers in your visitors’ browsers, not to track their visits to your page, but to track their browsing habits, which is valuable to advertising companies.

Sure, you can opt-out from this data mining (which is ironically done by placing another cookie) if you visit a page that they’re not going to tell you about unless you ask, but the point is that in cyberspace, many people value their privacy. In their eyes, Sitemeter has sold them out.



1. Richard - April 18, 2007

Hi Tim, I’m from GoStats, and we get spammy requests all the time for deals like the one site meter took. The thing is, unlike stat counter, GoStats didn’t need to tell everyone about this obvious decision. Seems like a stat counter publicity stunt to me.

2. Tim - April 18, 2007

I don’t think they are pretending that it is anything else. To Statcounter’s credit they didn’t name Sitemeter in their post, their users figured it out themselves.

Most people, however, would be more tolerant of a company trying to get publicity than of a company selling their details to a third party. After all, all they did was to blog on it.

It’s a classic marketing strategy anyway – not only did they manage to position themselves as a better alternative, they also touched two issues that many Internet users are concerned about: privacy, and the intrusiveness of advertising.

3. Richard - April 19, 2007

Hi Tim, re: “After all, all they did was to blog on it.”
-Actually, statcounter also blasted emails to all their members about it.

The stat counter marketing strategy was certainly shrewd, however, I wouldn’t look to it as an ethically pure one.

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