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June 22, 2005

Opera Editorial: Crimes, Misdemeanors, and Browser Statistics

I had actually planned an editorial (which will still appear eventually) about how well Opera seems to have handled, for instance, security companies such as Secunia; cooperating about the timing of security announcements etc. And then this came along. As I've said before, there's a point at which I'm not sure if Opera is doing the right thing,

Surely Opera has been in contact with the peddlers of these stats - they seem to be large firms(?), and there can't be that many of them. I agree with most of the assessments Arve made, but this discussion has been going on for a while now, surely you've contacted these people to set them straight?

Because it makes more sense to me that you'd want to complain about it rather than help them get it right and sign off on their stats - if they still ended up saying your (our) market share was as tiny as it is now. If you're willing to contact sites that write broken code, wouldn't you want to set these stats people straight? Or is it more difficult than I could possibly imagine?

(Arve's post on the problematics of the stats is here.) I'm just wondering why the stats companies don't just count according to "unique users" as well as hits, in order to present a more broadly accurate picture of which browsers view the most, and how many people use each browser. Of course that would be misleading in an of itself - Firefox users might browse more enthusiastically than anyone else, or Opera users might browse more efficiently with their search boxes; though in most cases it just makes sense to differentiate between usage (ie: hits) and users (adjusted for dial-up changes of IP etc. of course).

Basically Opera are doing what they've always done, which is to attack these stats-gathering firms, saying that their stats aren't accurate. This was an issue with browser sniffing, and it's an issue now with pre-fetching. All kinds of caveats have been raised, I'm just not sure why they haven't quietly been addressed between Opera and these firms, and presented as an accomplishment on both sides - rather than complained about, by both, to the detriment of both, in the way that it has. And if Opera were rebuffed privately, why haven't they made more hay about that, rather than the stats themselves?

And whatever happened to "what is good for FireFox is good for us"? Unless Opera are grumpy about Asa pointing out their really rather egregious mistakes, I don't see where all this is coming from.

Supposedly Jon was misrepresented in the article; that it was a much longer and detailed conversation, but this is what got printed - presumably because it's sexier to talk about the recent fracas. Though there's really only so many ways to spin the "sugar-daddy" comment.

Which doesn't change the fact that Opera has been going on about something without having made the effort to compromise with the stat companies on a mutually agreeable means of accounting. And you can't be misquoted if you don't talk bad about people. Though to be sure, all that Jon said is simply factual - there is no doubt (in anyones' mind) that pre-fetching and browser sniffing affect the stats. Perhaps all his sentences from now on should begin with "Firefox are our friends, but..."

I want to be upset with the reporter, but I don't doubt that there wouldn't have been a story without the angle he put on it, so I think the consideration here is between not so great ink, or no ink at all.

Posted by subtitles at June 22, 2005 12:03 AM | Opera Boggling