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Interview with Matthieu Aubry of Piwik

by Donald Robertson Contributions Published on Jan 22, 2013 02:40 PM
This is the latest installment of our Licensing and Compliance Lab's series on free software developers who choose GNU licenses for their works.

Piwik logo

In this installment, I interviewed (via email) Matthieu Aubry, the creator of Piwik, a freely licensed web analytics package. The FSF encourages people to use Piwik as a replacement for Google Analytics, since Google Analytics requires nonfree JavaScript to run in visitors' browsers, and to be careful with Piwik's privacy settings to make sure that visitor IP addresses and other identifiable bits of information are not recorded.

What is Piwik?

Piwik is a web analytics software that provides you with detailed reports on all of your web site's visitors. Piwik can display over 30+ relevant reports such as where your visitors come from (countries, regions, cities), which pages or keywords are the most popular, if visitors are engaged and returning (or buying) regularly from you, how many visits come to your page from social media, the performance of your marketing campaigns, and much more. All of these amazing reports are displayed in a simple-to-use interface which provides advanced data analysis tools and visualizations to help you understand your web site's visitors! In short, Piwik offers a solid web analytics software, with powerful data analysis tools, a free platform built on free APIs, backed by a talented engineering team pushing an active development schedule, and a large community of users and developers.

How are people using it?

Piwik is first and foremost a powerful web analytics software, most people use Piwik along with Google Analytics or as an alternative. Piwik counts more than 190k active users including individuals, entrepreneurs and small businesses, bloggers, marketers, CEOs, web hosting companies, web agencies, developers, advertising networks, and more...

There are many different ways to use Piwik, thanks to the modularity and reusability of the platform. In more recent times we are seeing the emergence of Piwik as an analytics platform with more original use cases. There are dozens of third-party plugins already built on the platform, and we will actively be working in 2013 to build up the developer community and, we hope, release a free plugins marketplace.

What feature(s) do you think really sets Piwik apart from similar packages?

One of the principle advantages of Piwik is that you are in control. Unlike remote-hosted services (such as Google Analytics), you host Piwik on your own server and the data is tracked inside your MySQL database. Because Piwik is installed on your server, you enjoy full control over your data. You can access reports easily via the Piwik APIs. Advanced users can use Custom Variables, Segmentation, or even run manual queries on the database in order to build advanced reports.

Piwik also respects and protects your visitor privacy with advanced privacy features (see the FAQ for more details). When using Piwik for web analytics, you ensure that your visitors' behavior on your web sites is not shared with advertising companies.

Why did you choose the GPLv3 as Piwik's license?

A few months before I created Piwik, I was living in India at the time and FSF India organized the GPLv3 conference in Bangalore. The conference confirmed to me that the GPL was the ideal license to use if your goals are freedom, reusability, sharing knowledge and benefits to all users. It also ensured that the platform we are building will always stay free, while still allowing companies to re-sell Piwik to their customers and provide it as a service.

Contributing to free software is a pleasure for all of us. I studied computer science engineering but most of my programming skills were learned by reading books and studying and reusing free software... Our objective with Piwik is to build a free data platform that is easy to extend, modify, and reuse. We are grateful for the work of the FSF on this license!

How can users (technical or otherwise) help contribute to Piwik?

With the increasing popularity of Piwik, recruiting new developers to volunteer to work on Piwik has been quite a challenge for us as it seems there are not so many developers or engineers out there available to volunteer on a moderately complex free software project such as Piwik. We are however very lucky to have an amazing international core team whose members are passionate about the project, as well as over 150 active translators. We could not do it without them!

We need your help to make Piwik even better and achieve our vision. There are many ways one can help or join the Piwik project:

  • Using Piwik: Using the software is the easiest and best way to contribute: users will share the word with their friends and colleagues and help make Piwik more popular. If your company uses Piwik successfully, we are grateful if you can submit a testimonial.

  • Sponsor a feature: We have launched a crowd funding campaign and we are hoping the Piwik community will support us to build new exciting features. We are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to fund a new advanced analytical feature in Piwik: the ability to create custom segments of visitors in an easy to use interface. This feature (see link for screenshots) will be an essential building block of our analytics platform! Pledge now to make it happen.

  • Developers: Our development process is documented and all work is done publicly. If you are a talented developer writing quality and secure code, if you are familiar with testing, we have many ideas and projects you could participate in or create.

  • Translators: If your native language is not English, you can help improve the translation in your language.

  • Mobile Developers: We have built one of the best Analytics Mobile Apps on the market and we are working on a rewrite into full HTML5 using the Alloy framework. All of it is under the GPLv3, and you can help.

  • UX, UI, datavis Developers: Piwik tracks and reports on a lot of interesting data. If you like to build free software HTML+JS datavis (we use jquery+ui+jqplot), or if you enjoy the challenge of surfacing insights from large amounts of web usage data, get in touch.

  • Marketing, Copywriters: if you like to write, or improve existing web material, contact us. We have many ideas to improve the Web site and do marketing actions to spread the word about Piwik.

Along with our amazing international core team members, we really hope that new volunteers will join the fun, and that more companies will sponsor us to work on the Piwik 2.0 roadmap! If you would like to contribute, check out this page and get in touch with us!

What's the next big thing for Piwik?

We have prepared a clear vision of our future dreams for Piwik and have created a road-map for Piwik 2.0, aiming for this major release in 2013... hopefully. As a free software project, one of the biggest challenges has been to raise funds to sustain our development and keep innovating. Throughout 2013 we will have to spend some time fundraising (via donations and crowdfunding so we can meet our Piwik 2.0 objectives sooner.

Piwik Professional Services team offers support to companies and enterprise users. For those who do not have the skills or infrastructure to manage the server and database, the Piwik Pro Services team is working on a Premium Piwik Hosting service, contact us for more information at

Please see the Piwik entry in the Free Software Directory for more information.

Enjoyed this interview? Check out our previous entry in this series featuring Kovid Goyal of Calibre.

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