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< >

Message to RIM: Fix the way Google Analytics reports BlackBerry browser data on new devices. You're helping the competition!

By Kevin Michaluk on 6 Oct 2011 03:04 pm EDT
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AnalyticsAnalytics
Left Chart: PlayBook, BB6 & BB7 stats are reported under Safari
Right Chart: Drilling into Safari stats, PlayBook, BB6 & BB7 devices report as Safari / (not set)

SERIOUSLY. Given the "perceived" state of BlackBerry in the marketplace today, having to write a blog post like this makes me really, really upset. I'm going to assume it's an oversight by Research In Motion or the Torch Mobile team, but it's a big one in my opinion that needs to be addressed asap. 

I don't spend too much time looking at the nitty gritty details of our site analytics, but today I logged into Google Analytics as I wanted to take a look at how many users/what % of users are coming to CrackBerry on BlackBerry 7 Smartphones. Drilling down into the Visitor > Browser stats (top left image), I found no shortage of OS 5 and older devices being reported, but it seemed for the most part that there is a complete lack of BlackBerry 6 / 7 devices and the BlackBerry PlayBook. Essentially, all of RIM's newer phones that run WebKit. Not good.

For a phone like the BlackBerry Bold 9900, the phone is supposed to report the browser agent as this (to services that are tracking analytics, etc):

"Mozilla/5.0 (BlackBerry; U; BlackBerry 9900; en) AppleWebKit/534.11+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.0.0.353 Mobile Safari/534.11+" 

Notice that while it makes note of BlackBerry in the agent string, there is also mention of Safari.

Now jumping over to the Visitor > Browser and OS report in Google Analytics, I started to get a better sense of what's going on here. Google Analytics typically breaks apart Safari by related devices: Safari / Macintosh, Safari / iPad, Safari / iPhone, etc.

But also notice that there's a Safari / (not set) OS being reported, which after Mac computers on CrackBerry is the number one Safari browser/OS. Interesting....

Drilling down into the traffic trends for Safari / (not set) report (below), it became immediately apparent as to what is happening here. Just notice that nice spike the day the PlayBook was announced in April 2010 and it's crystal clear - the new BlackBerry devices are getting picked up by Google Analytics as Safari / (not set) on the browser. Looking at the exact numbers, etc (which i didn't include in the charts above), it's easy to see this all jives and that's what's happening. 

Analytics
Drilling into Safari / (Not Set), it's easy to see this is the missing data for the PlayBook, BB6 / BB7 devices

To me this is really, really stupid. Android's web browser is based on WebKit too, yet it has no issue in reporting properly as Android Browser / Android as being the browser and OS. Apple devices are neatly categorized as mentioned above. Yet here we see new BlackBerry devices being reported in such a manner that if anything, is helping Apple! Seriously, a typical website operator using Google Analytics would look at the data being reported and attribute it to a Apple Safari device / browser, NOT to a BlackBerry as it rightly should be. 

Looking at these types of traffic stats is how a lot of companies decided what to support these days with their mobile apps as well. If no new BlackBerry devices are visiting our website, why would we make an app for BlackBerry? Honestly, looking at how the data is currently reported, even for a site like CrackBerry I should be prioritizing to build iOS and Android apps for this site before a better BlackBerry one. However, if the data was being reported accurately as it should (with all of the BlackBerry traffic and Safari / (not set) traffic attributed to BB WebKit grouped together), then BlackBerry would be no doubt be first on the list.

Maybe it's on Google's end to fix something up there -- as it looks like BlackBerry Smartphones are identifying themselves properly -- but even if that's the case the onus is still on RIM to make sure that's happening properly. If Apple can do it and others can, I'm sure RIM can too. 

In this post I'm specifically referring to how Google Analytics is not accurately reporting new BlackBerry devices within their browser and OS reports. Knowing Google of all companies is getting it wrong makes me wonder what other analytics tracking companies out there may be messing up on reporting the usage of BlackBerry to consume web content. Companies like Comscore put out regular reports looking at the browser usage on mobile devices. People put a lot of weight into those reports, so I sure hope they are accurately reporting the usage of NEW BlackBerry devices, and not just older pre-webkit ones. 

At this stage in the game, RIM needs to make sure they're getting their credit where it is due, and right now on Google Analyics they are shooting themselves in the foot, by if anything, further helping the competition.

For your own sake RIM, fix it!

/ end rant

Reader comments

Message to RIM: Fix the way Google Analytics reports BlackBerry browser data on new devices. You're helping the competition!

78 Comments

Not agreed!

I think that Kevin's assertion that Google should be to blame is correct. RIM needs to get on their case though.

The OS is CLEARLY set in the agent string for BlackBerry and PlayBook. Google should be able to identify this.

Looking at those stats, OS6+ phones and PBs are making a very respectable showing here at CrackBerry.

The android UA also says mozilla 5.0, mobile safari, with an Android subtype. So Google Analytics can differentiate the actual type of devices properly.

If RIM changes the UA so that it's distinct from mobile safari, many sites that can serve up mobile content would not show it for the BlackBerry webkit browser, unless site maintainers go out of the way to support the RIM specific UA.

If the device does not have the mobile safari identification, most BlackBerry 6/7 user would *not* be able to take advantage of the new browser, because either sites would default to the desktop version, which is tough to load because they consume more RAM; or they give a most barebones version of a mobile site, eg the 3 tiers of google+ (mobile, webkit mobile, desktop), which would do BlackBerry users an even bigger disservice.

It's possible to differentiate the BlackBerry UA from android / mac / iphone UA. If google analytics isn't identifying properly, then it's not an accurate tool for webmasters to use. Instead of pressuring RIM to change the UA for the detriment of their users, site owners should complain to google for their inaccuracies.

I use Sea Monkey when I need quick, painless browsing.

It's using the Mozilla engine but doesn't come with all of the bloat of Firefox.

Essentially, it's a niche browser though.

It's these small things ... things that RIM's competitors excel at ... which will eventually lead to their demise.

Sad. :(

I think this is because other Pages redirect to nicer/readable mobile pages by user agent and the most sites don't detect Blackberry. (had a pre 2 and never been redirected to mobile sites, sometimes good!). But if the browser says he is a safari the page will redirect (cause of the marketshare from iphone/ipod/ipad..)

I reckon fixing this involves OS update for the affected phones/playbooks as the agent report is burned into each device's OS? Might be nice to see this on the next OS updates rollout. i know thats a very wishful thinking on my part given how things goes in RIM regarding software updates tho.

What do you expect? This is my Torch's user agent: "Mozilla/5.0 (BlackBerry; U; BlackBerry 9850; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.11+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.0.0.362 Mobile Safari/5" LOL!

No wonder developers aren't making apps for PB and developers/companies are dropping their support of current BB apps....This has been going on for at least 6 months, probably ever since the first OS-6 phones came out....not good for 2011 stats

Nope, my 9650 came with OS5. I had to upgrade it. They will still sell it to you with OS5 if you ask (or are a business).

RICHARD KING
CRACKBERRY KING
my question to kevin.... your site sells apps for bb... what took you so long to find this?????

I have a lot of other in-house metrics I can look at to get a sense of popularity of device (for example, just look at the action in the CrackBerry forums for individual devices), so I don't really rely on this particular report to the extent that I'm drilling down into it.

But I think most people running websites who use Google Analytics (which is HUGE #), would look at this to get a sense of the popularity of mobile devices visiting.

Advice to RIM, learn from Apple Inc. When you steal a technology, hide the other guys tracks! Apple stole touch screen technology from companies like HTC, but they hid the evidence.

that's the point of this post. The PlayBooks are grouped into Safari / (not set) along with other BlackBerry 6 and BlackBerry 7 Smartphones

I was just looking into this. I wanted to see WHY I was unable to use hulu.com, and after some testing, I found that the javascript in the website searches specificlly Blackberry Playbook and of course I tested what it was and it said safari. I am trying to figure out how to spoof this.
PS, there was a playbook updated pushed out today.

In addition to what Kevin pointed out, I would have thought an equally big issue is why does every individual BB device need to be broken out like that? How many iterations of iPhones are there, yet they all just get listed as "Safari/iPhone". If you add up the total data/visits of all the individual Blackberry devices that access any given site, and listed it as "Blackberry", it may well be greater than "Safari/iPhone".....if you get what I'm saying.

For example, if the website manager of say cnn.com looks at the google stats to see the top 10 browsers/devices that are used to access the site, "Safari/iPhone" could be at number 7 for example, with no BB devices in the top 10.....but number 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 could all be individual BB devices, which when added together could place Blackberry above iPhone in the top 10......make sense?

Also, I've seen other misleading charts which show 'data usage' of mobile devices, often touted by Apple fans "ha, Apple has a 49% share of mobile data usage, but RIM is only at 6%" (last chart I saw were similar numbers, maybe off by a couple percent). Interesting figures yes, but in these always biased articles, I NEVER see mention of the fact that BB devices, by their very nature, are less data hungry....RIM compresses much of the data that is sent/received by our phones, so these raw figures are highly misleading.

Anyway, just my two pence worth :)

A similar problem is the PB browser being recognized as a mobile browser and forcing users to mobile sites. Even on the torch - many times, I want the whole thing. Don't force me to the mobile. But that's an individual site setting (although I'm sure the big CMS's that you all use have the logic built-in to redirect to the mobile site, if it exists).

Hey Kev,

This is a Google issue. Our user agent headers are correct, and coded that way in order to give our users the best experience on the web. As you know, we've got a killer HTML 5 experience. But if we didn't claim Safari / Webkit compatibility, users would see a dumbed down mobile version of the site only instead of the HTML5 site.

Cheers, A

Oddly enough, on the OS 7 devices (though not for some reason on the OS 6 devices), we already get tossed over to dumbphone versions of certain sites. Examples are espn.com and nytimes.com.

Admittedly, this is the webmaster's or website developer's fault in not having their sites handle the OS 7 browser's user agent string properly, but it's related to what Kevin is talking about. I'll leave it to him to explain why, though.

I have to say it is GREAT to see you respond to issues like this on crackberry.com. As you know Blackberry has a very strong community with lots of insight. To know you're "keeping your ear to the street" gives all of us enthusiats a reason to be excited for the changes and future of the blackberry platform. Can't wait for devcon.

RIMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Alec,
You should reach out to Google to get this rectified. It sets a terrible perception for BlackBerry device usage in today's market.
Thanks

Hey Alec,

Ok, I get that. As I stated in the post, I think the user agent stuff on the new BlackBerry devices *is* reporting as you intended and I did put out there that I thought it might be something on Google's end to address.

But the most important thing being highlighted here are the consequences of how the reporting is done now. If you expect people to build BlackBerry apps for their sites (something end users want, despite the BB browser being pretty good), you have to realize then that the first place they look for prioritizing what apps to build is by looking to their analytics.  The fact that it is a Google problem doesn't make it not RIM's problem. You guys either need to work with Google to get that reporting correctly, OR you need to communicate this message to people who run websites. If it's a webmaster issue to deal with, the odds are it's not even going to appear as an issue to them as it's neatly reporting under Safari anyways (so there doesn't appear to be a problem - hence why this issue has gone unnoticed for so long). Allowing it to persist as it is now is not in RIM's best interest. 

Heck, looking at these analytics, despite the fact CrackBerry focuses on BlackBerry products, according to Google Analytics -- something webmasters put a lot of trust in -- I should be building our Android and iOS apps first before worrying about our BlackBerry apps. If the reporting was as it should be -- not attributed to Safari but consolidated under BlackBerry -- then of course BlackBerry would be the priority. On a site like CrackBerry, we're talking well over a million visits a month being classified as Safari instead of BlackBerry. (And to our readers, of course BB is our priority and we have some awesome plans for the CB mobile experience in 2012). 

Also, as an end user who owns smartphones and tablets on multiple platforms, I personally would rather get redirected to a dumbed down website site (which loads instantly and saves bandwidth) and then gives me a clear option to either return to full site or prompts me to download their app. I think a lot of people would agree with that (good idea for a poll to run here on the blogs).

That's my 36 cents anyways,

Thanks for chiming in. Cheers,

Kevin

 

 

Alec from RIM again. I assure, we're working on this, and thanks for the feedback.

I also understand that everyone wants to know more about how we're going to recruit more applications to BlackBerry. We'll be talking more about that at DevCon. Hope to see you there.

It's beyond just Google Analytics. We just had a mobile ad firm claiming that HP TouchPad having 4% of the tablet traffic --- where is the Playbook? Well, that mobile ad firm probably had no clue the Playbook traffic is grouped under some other obscure category.

RIM needs to go out and talk to these firms to educate them where RIM devices are going to report under.

For me, it depends on the device I'm using.
If I'm using my:
9700: mobile ALL the time
9900: depends on the website
Playbook: Full website.

Too bad more websites weren't like http://bostonglobe.com/ That way it will show well regardless of your device...

Just my 36 cents ;)

[Quote]
Posted by Kevin Michaluk
Also, as an end user who owns smartphones and tablets on multiple platforms, I personally would rather get redirected to a dumbed down website site (which loads instantly and saves bandwidth) and then gives me a clear option to either return to full site or prompts me to download their app. I think a lot of people would agree with that (good idea for a poll to run here on the blogs).
[/Quote]

Alec,

Your response to Kevin sounds an awful lot like buck passing. This isn't a Google problem, this is a CrackBerry Nation problem. With sliding stock prices, buyout rumours, and analysts proclaiming RIM dead in the water, you need to be as agressive as hell in order to keep the brand relevant!

Steve (RIP) didn't let the small stuff slide, and neither should RIM.

So please, pick up the phone tomorrow, call the GOOG and get it straightened out so people know without a shadow of a doubt that BlackBerry users ARE out there, and that we're visiting their sites.

It is a Google problem.

The user agent string clearly states BlackBerry as the OS. The fact Google uses the browser type to record analytics is the issue.

It shouldn't just be RIM with the problem though, Google themselves use Webkit. Except for themselves you can bet they syphon off the Android hits.

So maybe after all it's deliberate obfuscation by Google?

Having said that, with 70 million BlackBerry browsers out there, the decision to use Webkit in the user agent string could be a mistake. RIM might as well differentiate its browser and try and persuade sites to respond appropriately.

And the issue with all the different BlackBerrys in the data is that each device has differing capabilities - hence they inform the developer to maximise the site support. In practice not such a great idea, but born out of the usual inability to finish anything.

Perhaps the truth is RIM just isn't bold enough.

I hope my feedback would be of relevance to this topic and here it goes.
Since OS 6 and OS 7 seen the light of day, I started using news feeds for RSS to Crackberry.com and other websites which lead me to not visiting these websites for almost 5 months at a time.
Also the same thing applies to the Playbook, either GeeReader or Blackberry news with the same out come.
If these statistics are based on web browsing (which is a pain on anything but a computer...not every computer if I might add), that would explain why OS 6 and OS 7 are not high on the list.
To add more pain to suffering, you can't post any comments unless you are using a web browser or semi logged in (GeeReader Playbook) so that definitely is a let down when it comes to leaving comments and reading them.
This is my first time logged into a computer just to write this...cheers

So would this be why when I pull up wow.joystiq.com it pulls up the main site and not the mobile site? It doesn't know I'm on a 9800 and I have manually enter a i. In fromt of every page url.

I noticed it on my own website too but .. it even did not surprised me. This is unfortunately reality. Situation around RIM reminds me situation around Palm not long before its end. Users on Forums like Crackberry cared more than company itself...

Alec_Saunders (if he really works for RIM) just proved your point. While CrackBerry cries out in alarm, begging for a fix. Alec_Saunders (seemingling RIM) shrugs it off and says "not our problem". Kev made a great point, "just because it's Google's problem doesn't make it not RIM's problem"

Crackberry and it's users do seemingly care more about RIM than RIM does. Instead of the blame game, just do what it takes to fix it? Kay RIM?

RIM can't fix this except by hobbling their own browser. They've taken the next best compromise.

It's a Google problem. Who knows, maybe even deliberate.

RIM can make representations to Google (and probably already have), but Google don't have to do anything.

The real answer for RIM is to create their own analytics based on activity via BIS and BES - but that's no minor task.

This does explain why BlackBerry always comes fairly low on the site hit lists - not just Googles.

Google is no angle but I highly doubt they're in the business of intentionally making their services inaccurate. I'm sure if RIM pestered them enough Google would fix it. And if Google didn't.. Well I'm sure there's plenty of news outlets that'd jump on a "Google refuses to properly identify BlackBerry usage in it's Analytics service" story.

It's good to see Alec respond, but this is something that needs to be addressed. Many sites have reported on the near zero presence of BlackBerry devices on internet browsing and that only adds fuel to the negative fire.

From my 9670- BlackBerry; U; BlackBerry 9670; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.8+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/6.0.0.666 Mobile Safari/534.8+ And i would like to say it seems to me that Rim would benefit from some ambitious new employees like lets say ooo?/ Kevin who actually care about the brand, to replace people like this Alec guy who's not my problem attitude really ticked me off. Don't worry Rim your fans and supporters will be your backbone until you grow one!

Alec gave you the facts. You can choose to get emotional (and therefore irrational), but the fact is RIM can't do much about this except damage your browser experience.

As in many aspects of engineering the final design is a compromise. Perhaps RIM chose the wrong compromise, because they put you first rather than Google Analytics.

I think RIM should maybe look into hiring someone on the CB team as a Consultant or something along those lines. CB has its finger on the pulse of what is going on in the real world with BlackBerry and has a real love for the brand and genuinely cares about its future. I think that is what they need, someone with a real passion for BlackBerry and someone who really wants to see them be the best they can be. No more of this "it's not our problem" crap, make it your problem and fix it. Are you happy with being a corporate communication device (and even that is fading), or do you want more? Are you happy being #3 or #4? Do you even want to be #1? If not, give the job to someone does, someone who wants to see a BlackBerry in the hands of every man woman and child in the world. C'MON RIM GET WITH IT! WE ARE PULLING FOR YOU!

Anyone who has read Alec's blog or twitter feed will see that he is a BIG supporter of QNX/RIM. Geesh, give the man some time and some credit for reaching out to this community. How many other RIM bigshots do you see posting on these forums?

RIMPIRE STRIKES BACK!

This is how my PlayBook is reported on my own website:-

Language: en_GB
Country: UNITED KINGDOM
Screen Area: 1024x600
OS: MAC
User Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (PlayBook; U; RIM Tablet OS 1.0.0; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.11+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.1.0.7 Safari/534.11+

Hi Kevin. You're right, this shouldn't happen, but it's not RIM's fault. WebKit is an open source project founded by Apple and the user agent string has to be in that format. It's the same for any other device having a WebKit browser (http://www.gtrifonov.com/2011/04/15/google-android-user-agent-strings-2/).
The problem is clearly the way Google Analytics works. For any other device out there it manages to identify the right platform. Also, if you look at the user agent string of Apple's products you will find the OS version and device name in there. Yet, Google identifies them all like a single platform. It should do the same thing for BlackBerry devices...

If Rim started to point out publicly what was happening and that google was not reporting correctly then unless google want people to start doubting their analytics and what its teling them im sure suddenly they would find a way to report the os 6 and 7 devices etc. While they think RIM and more importantly website providers and advertisers ae not worried then they will not lift a finger.

Mention it at Devcon mention it in public interviews with major tech blogs and what have you. They always want a new slant and twist on things. At the moment Apple love is at a peak but look at just before the Sad news of Steve Jobs passing away (may he rest in peace) the media were looking for a reason to kick Apple as it looked like they had let the Iphone inovation slip...

Bulid them up and knock them down if you let the media have access to some stats and examples of whats happening im sure things can be changed..

Everyone who cares needs to retweet this and facebook and of course plus one it

Once thisis fixed lets get ALL Blackberry stats together. I dont see separate stats for iPhone 3, iPhone4, Samsung Galaxy, Samsung Galaxy II, etc. All Apple are lumped together, all Android are lumped together. All Blackberry devices should be lumped together too !!!

Lets fix this asap as its KILLING BLACKBERRY !!!!

I prefer Opera to the Browser on my OS 5 Tour. I wonder how that is reported. On my Playbook I have used blackberry's browser. I visit Crackberry at least 3-5 times a day, though this post is on my PC at work.

Holy smokes, I just found this problem this morning. I was generating web traffic on my Z10 and Playbook last night on a web site that we're developing for a client. I spent 30 mins trying to find the traffic on Google Analytics and then I hit the forums and found this article.

I posted some feedback to Google Analytics help centre feedback. But what else can we I other than 'liking' the article to raise more awareness. No wondering web traffic is down for BB devices. Had I been pressed for time I might not have noticed and just told the customer that no BB devices are visiting the site.

Anyone have any ideas on how to keep this article active and raise awareness to Google?