Tool Tips: Piwik

Stephen Yagielowicz
For webmasters seeking a website analytics solution that offers the comprehensive reporting of page tagged services such as Google Analytics, combined with the data ownership, privacy and security benefits of a self-hosted solution, along with the flexibility and freedom of a plugin-based open source architecture, a relative newcomer may be just what you're looking for.

According to its publisher, Piwik is a downloadable, GPL licensed web analytics software program that provides users with detailed reports on their website's visitors; including the search engines and keywords they used to find your site, the language they speak, your most popular pages, and much more.

Designed to be an open source alternative to Google Analytics, Piwik uses PHP and MySQL and is installed on your own webserver using a five minute installation process. The software generates a small JavaScript tag that you copy and paste on to the websites you wish to track. A variety of existing plugins can do this automatically.

Piwik boasts a number of advantages, including the method by which its features are built inside plugins; allowing users to add new features and remove the ones that are unneeded. Developers can build their own analytics plugins.

For many prospective users, one of the most attractive features is that you own your data and do not need to provide it to outside companies, such as is needed with third-party solutions.

"Let's suppose you are using another of the many large third party tracking programs, who do you think owns all of that valuable data that is being tracked from your site?" Internet Marketer Marc Lindsay wrote on the Piwik blog. "It's certainly not you. Sure you may be able to analyze that data and see some nice pretty reports, but at the end of the day that data does not belong to you and you are confined within the restraints that the third-party solution would put on you."

"Because Piwik is installed on your server, the data is stored in your own database and you can get all the statistics using open APIs (publishing the data in many formats: XML, JSON, PHP, CSV)," stated a company spokesperson. "The user interface is [also] fully customizable: you can drag and drop the widgets you want to display and create a report especially tailored to you!"

Piwik offers sophisticated charting of report data, all of which can be embedded into a website, either for webmaster-only or public display. For example, Piwik can display your website's access statistics graphs on your WordPress Dash and display a pie chart on your home page showing where visitors are currently coming from.

According to the company, this server-based solution offers better real-time performance, with more current stats than hosted solutions. Backed by the makers of the OpenX Ad Server, an online demo and free download are available from the Piwik website.