Why is FirefoxOS in Google Analytics?

Narrative IndustriesThoughts

You probably check your Google Analytics regularly to keep an eye on what’s happening. If your web strategy includes mobile, and it should of course, Google Analytics helps you make informed decisions about your web site’s visitors but, when it comes to mobiles, something has been a bit off lately….

As web consultancy, it’s our job to keep an eye on these things for our clients and we were a little surprised when we noticed a small number of visitors suddenly using FirefoxOS. The numbers were small, but higher than some other mobile operating systems, which is what stood out as unusual.

FirefoxOS is a new mobile operating system which only launched last week in limited territories and, at time of writing, is not yet available in any major markets. It’s not available, at all, in the UK yet, so why and how is  FirefoxOS already having a noticeable impact on some people’s Google Analytics?

Well, in a nutshell, Google Analytics is counting  Yahoo! bot as FirefoxOS

Yup, that’s right, when Yahoo! trawls your site, Google Analytics thinks it’s the new mobile operating system, FirefoxOS.

Now, let’s be fair here: Google prepared for the new launch of FirefoxOS in advance by associating the new user-agent with a specific OS and organisation. It did this to be ready and, usually, that’s a good thing but there seems to be a bug in how it is interpreting FirefoxOS.

Yahoo uses the following user-agent:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Yahoo! Slurp; http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/ysearch/slurp)

while FirefoxOS uses the standard Firefox format (with a number where the X is)

Mozilla/5.0 (Mobile; rv:X.0) Gecko/14.0 Firefox/X.0

There are many questions & issues that this raises but they are all fairly academic because it’s reasonable to assume that Google will fix this in the near future.

In the meantime, if it’s causing you problems, you can always filter your reports to exclude using Advanced Segments as shown in the video below.