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FourthParty: A New Approach to Web Measurement

Last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the public World Wide Web, and there is much to celebrate. The early web consisted of a few text pages linked together; the modern web supports audio, video, interactivity, complex storage, and even native applications. Both Microsoft and Google are now developing entire operating systems around web technologies.

Tools for measuring the web have not kept pace. Many studies still rely on HTTP header logging and static analysis of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Researchers who want to go beyond these simple tools are often forced to develop purpose-built software from scratch.

Today we're releasing FourthParty, an open-source platform for web measurement. FourthParty is built on Mozilla Firefox and the Add-on SDK, making it fast, modular, easy to use, multi-platform, and up-to-date with the latest web technologies. And FourthParty is already generating research results: it's the tool we've been using in our Tracking the Trackers studies (1, 2). To learn more and get started, visit fourthparty.info.

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