Mink Machine

Google Analytics and cookies

A few days after the launch of Google Analytics, the web is buzzing all over about it. Due to an unexpected amount of users the service was temporarily crippled, but now it seems to be up and running.

The good stuff? Well, it’s free! It also contains the basic functions one would expect.

However, there are a few things I don’t like. For start: cookies. The code from Google Analytics will send cookies that states the analysis domain as publisher. Here is an example of the cookies generated from one single page call:

Cookie examples Example of cookies set by Google Analytics.

This little snippet can be found at the usual agreement text: “Google Analytics’ JavaScript code was designed to be highly compatible with your website’s existing cookie usage. All Google Analytics cookie names begin with _utm to prevent any naming conflicts between our cookies and your own.”

This means that visitors to your Google Analytics-enabled site will receive cookies that seems to originate from your server, when it’s actually Google Analytics that stores them. Since there is a two-year-old law for all member states of the European Union that requires cookie-using sites to inform about the usage, this could make sites break the law even though they not use cookies! The issue here is about integrity. What will the cookies be used for? The expiry date is set to 2038, the same year as normal Google cookies.

Another thing is that the data is collected over a period of several hours before it’s available for analysis. This means that you can’t have a peek at who’s visited your site during the last hour. Apparently not a big issue to many, but I still feel it’s bit of a letdown.

Also, it relies on Javascript, which can be inactivated or unavailable depending on the user and browsing environment.

In short, it’s not that bad and I encourage you to try it for yourself. If you don’t like it, there are lots of other options such as server-side AWStats or Statcounter.

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