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My thoughts on Cloudflare Web Analytics

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Cloudflare currently celebrate their 10th birthday and launch a new product or feature everyday for a week. Today they launched Cloudflare Web Analytics. Until now you had to proxy your site through Cloudflare to use their analytics, because they collected those stats – “at the edge” – on their servers. But now they are adding an JavaScript-based option, similar to Google Analytics and all the new privacy-focused analytics services like GoatCounter and Plausible. But like GoatCounter and Plausible and unlike Google, they promise privacy, because they don’t make their money tracking users, but selling products (that aren’t users) – at least that’s what they say in the announcement post on their blog:

Cloudflare’s business has never been built around tracking users or selling advertising. We don’t want to know what you do on the Internet — it’s not our business. So we wanted to build an analytics service that gets back to what really matters for web creators, not necessarily marketers, and to give web creators the information they need in a simple, clean way that doesn’t sacrifice their visitors' privacy.

They try to be even more privacy-friendly then most of the privacy-focused analytics services by taking a different approach regarding “unique visits”:

What does it mean for us to make our analytics “privacy-first”? Most importantly, it means we don’t need to track individual users over time for the purposes of serving analytics. We don’t use any client-side state, like cookies or localStorage, for the purposes of tracking users. And we don’t “fingerprint” individuals via their IP address, User Agent string, or any other data for the purpose of displaying analytics. (We consider fingerprinting even more intrusive than cookies, because users have no way to opt out.)

That’s the thing that made me write my own analytics tool. I don’t need those “unique” statistics, I just want to see very basic stats about which page gets how many views – and I can’t just look at my server logs because I use BunnyCDN in front of my origin server. Even many privacy-focused analytics tools generate some kind of identifier (even if they reset it every day) to fingerprint specific users and calculate “unique visitors”.

I’m interested into whether they provide this analytics service for free or charge some money for it. Currently it’s only available for users who already have a paid Cloudflare plan. But they promise to make this service even available for people not yet using Cloudflare, so that they don’t have to change any DNS entries etc. While I see Cloudflare’s internet dominance with a critical eye and am annoyed when their bot protection system shows me a captcha, I’m grateful that they provide their DNS service for free and also allow at-cost domain registration.

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Jan-Lukas Else
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