Clouseau

Web analytics startup Catchpoint is petitioning Apple to reveal why Navigation Timing, a Web specification that allows website owners to monitor their site’s performance, is absent from its Safari browser on iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices.

Website owners are able to use Navigation Timing to monitor their site’s performance on most desktop computers — Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox all support the spec — but are unable to access that same information on the iPhone and iPad. This has become a problem for website owners and analytics companies, as tablets and smartphones become the primary devices through which millions of people access the Web.

“We, as a community, all need this data,” says Catchpoint CEO Mehdi Daoudi. “But without Apple’s support it’s almost like trying to drive a car with three tires.”

Daoudi refers to website performance as part of a company’s “marketing mix.” It doesn’t matter how good a website is if no-one is willing to wait for it to load — KISSmetrics reported in 2011 that every second of loading time increases the likelihood that visitors will leave the site and never come back.

“You want to be engaged with your customers. And you do that in various ways — performance is another way,” Daoudi says. “You can have amazing content, but if your site is slow people won’t visit anymore.” Being able to identify and fix problems that affect loading times, then, can directly affect a company’s bottom line.

Some analytics companies are able to use a workaround that offers some of the same information as Navigation Timing, but the Daoudi says that the resulting data is often limited and “extremely inaccurate.” This petition is meant to show Apple that there is a demand for richer, more accurate data about iPhone and iPad users’ browsing experience.