Why I am ditching Google Analytics in favour of Fathom Analytics

Aug 26, 2019

I am removing Google Analytics from all of my websites. This includes my website where you are reading this, as well as all of my personal projects. This has less to do with me being paranoid about my visitors being tracked but more to do with recently grown dislike about some of Googles decisions about how they are going to do certain things.

I do not mind being tracked on the internet. This is because the positive outcome offsets the negatives (mostly) - that's just my personal opinion. Especially when it comes to Google's services, we all know Google's business model - one can use almost all of their products without paying a penny at all. This means the actual product is the people. I get it - but It's the tracking that enables Google to deliver better search results, better assistance and suggested contents in Google Now feed and Google News. I am not saying there is no "more to it" - but I am focusing on the positives here. Like it or not - it's all of the trackings that make the internet as I see "relevant" to me.

Just like millions of other websites in the internet - I also added Google Analytics to all of my websites - that enables web administrators to gain insight of their visitors. It's a vital piece of software to understand what part of your website or application is used the most or how one of your recent changes impacted the user experience. This also helps google keeps a record of websites visited by a user. This (along with other things) enables Google to suggest flight deals in Google Now feed when it sees I've visited few flight-comparison websites recently. Again, no problem here.

However, a recent suggestion to block Chrome Extensions ability to block web request before they happen caused a log of outrage over the internet. Because this essentially will make Ad Blocking software useless.

Assuming Manifest V3 is adopted, the new webRequest API would only allow  extensions to observe network requests, but not modify, redirect or  block them.

The over-simplified version of Manifest V3 is - currently Ad Blocking gets a notification before the browser is about to connect to different domains to download contents. The Adblocking extension can examine the URL and give a 👍 or 👎 whether to go ahead and download the content. However, in V3, Google's proposal is the extensions need to give a list of rules that the browser can honour beforehand. The rules can not have any pattern-matching rules and there is a limit of 30,000 150,000 rules. Take that AdBlock!

Of course, this will improve the performance of the web browser and will make it difficult for malicious extensions to perform ... em... malicious act. But this will kill Ad Blocking software as they stand now. There is a nice article over at XDA-Developer about this.

Switched from Chrome to Firefox after 11 years

This controversial suggestion prompted me to switch to Firefox after almost 11 years of using Chrome. When first launched - Chrome was the snappy, simple web browser that everyone was asking for. Over the last 11 years, it has become a major focus of Google to strengthen its internet stronghold. It even has become an operating system for god's sake 🤷‍♀️. Recently it even implemented a built-in adblocker that blocks less than 1% of the ads over the internet. None of these is surprising from a company which makes money through online advertising - yet they didn't bother me as I was happily using Chrome on my phone and computers.

Then I gave up - switched to Firefox despite occasionally missing Google Assistant's integration with Chrome on Android (contextual information upon selecting some text in a website).

Ditch Google Analytics in favour of Fathom Analytics

I do not need to know the ISP my visitors are connecting from, nor do I need their location. All I need is how long people are spending on which page and what are the trends like over some time.

Fathom Demo

Fathom Analytics seem to be the privacy-focused browser analytics software that would serve my purpose without feeding the giant that turned annoying recently.

What's Next?

Don't know! 🤣

If you do not need to know all of those extra pieces of information about your visitors, or you care for user's privacy, or you don't want your visitors' information to be mined - you can also try Fathom analytics. It's an open-source self-hosted (also available in Docker hub) or managed web analytics solution that cares about privacy.

Mohammad Mustakim Ali

I'm a Software Engineer living in London, UK. My passion is to make *very fast* software with great user experience and I have just got little better on this than I was yesterday.