Server Logs Misrepresention

Kynn Bartlett posted an interesting message on one of the HWG lists today about how server log files underrepresent the minority browsers, especially lynx. I'm quoting most of the message here because the list archives seem to be a few weeks out of date (ho hum)

"Let's say you have a web site with 3 frames. In the left frame there are 6 images (a navigation bar); in the upper right frame there is one image (a banner); and in the lower right, big frame you have your content, which includes 4 other pictures. You have one stylesheet for the navigation bar and a separate one for the content window, but not one for the simple banner window.

I come to your site using Internet Explorer 4.0. My browser requests the following files:

* The base frameset
* The left frame
* The 6 images in the left frameset
* The external stylesheet for the left frameset
* The banner frame
* The banner image
* The content frame
* The 4 images in the content frame
* The external stylehseet for the content frame

That's a total of 17 files.

Now let's say that instead, I came to look at your site using Opera 3.2, with the images turned off. (This is my usual mode of surfing; I only load images if I think there's something worth seeing.) You can turn frames off in Opera, but let's assume I have them on. Also, Opera doesn't do CSS in version 3.2, only 3.5 onward.

Therefore, my browser requests the following files:

* The base frameset
* The left frame
* The banner frame
* The content frame

Which is only 4 files

Now, finally I go and look at it in lynx:

* The base frameset

Hopefully, you had a useable NOFRAMES section (one that didn't just insult me and/or my browser!). But only one file was downloaded using lynx, and so my agent log contains:

Lynx/2.6 libwww-FM/2.14

So now you run your log analysis program. You have 17 hits from MSIE, 4 hits from Opera, and 1 hit from lynx. This comes out to the following usage stats:

77% Internet Explorer
18% Opera
4% Lynx

Therefore, you conclude that only 4% of your users are using lynx."


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