Alternative analytics platforms are popping up that are more lightweight, open-source, and privacy-focused.

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In 2019 I wrote an article about how Google Analytics is problematic due to its privacy problems and immense size, and encouraged developers to use an alternative for tracking website or app usage. Plenty of privacy-minded developers have noticed that Google Analytics requires over 40KB of JavaScript and gathers much more data than is generally needed to understand how users interact with their projects. As a result, alternative analytics platforms are popping up that are more lightweight, open-source, and privacy-focused.

This article takes a closer look at the stand-out solutions that will allow you to avoid using Google Analytics. All of the following platforms are either free or reasonably priced.

1. GoAccess

GoAccess is a terminal-based web log analyzer. While other analytics platforms place a snippet in your website’s HTML, GoAccess simply parses logs generated by default on most hosting platforms, assembling analytics data while adding zero additional code to the front end.

Pros

  • Requires no snippet on front-end
  • No user consent required

Cons

  • Requires proficiency with the command line–if you are not familiar with terminal commands, consider another tool
  • Unable to gather data from front-end events

2. Ackee

Ackee is a self-hosted analytics provider that is easy to set up. Documentation includes a one-click Heroku deploy that will provision a virtual server and database instance for you. For small applications, you can use Heroku’s free option which will periodically put your Ackee instance to sleep, but still allow you to gather data effectively.

Pros

  • GDPR-compliant by default
  • Easy to host yourself with free options

Cons

  • Does not provide data on user locations or other advanced features such as funnels or custom events
  • Advanced features require user consent

3. Matomo

Matomo is an open-source, ethical analytics platform that offers both a self-hosted and paid cloud option where data is hosted for you. You have complete control over the data therein and can export it at any time. Matomo offers advanced features like custom events, acquisition, goals, and funnels, and its initial script is still much smaller than that of Google Analytics.

Pros

  • Offers both PaaS and self-hosted versions
  • Robust features like custom events, acquisition, goals, and funnels

Cons

  • Relatively large script size (though still much smaller than Google Analytics)
  • Advanced features require user consent

4. Simple Analytics

Simple Analytics is an affordable analytics PaaS that focuses on privacy. Their servers are located in the Netherlands and the service does not use cookies so there is no need to get user consent to track anonymous data. The company states that they “designed [their] analytics in a way that doesn’t track your users. [They] don’t collect any data that’s not necessary.” While their API allows for easy tracking of outbound links and custom events, it is not quite as robust as Matomo.

Pros

  • Paid PaaS version only–no self-hosting available
  • No cookies used–no user consent required

Cons

  • API not as robust as Matomo

Conclusion

Switching to a provider other than Google Analytics is a win for both you and your users. As responsible analytics platforms surface, it is important that we take the opportunity to switch to these better alternatives, not only for the sake of our projects, but to encourage the continuing development of more equitable web tools.