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Browsing Time Explained

Last Updated: Aug 01, 2018 07:22PM PDT
When viewing reports in WebSpy Vantage, you will notice many sections include a Browsing Time column.

Browsing Time is calculated by Vantage's own algorithm to estimate how long a user's machine has been generating activity through your firewall or web gateway, or how long a site has been actively sending and receiving data through the firewall/web gateway.

The calculation works like this:
  1. When a user starts browsing the web or generating any sort of network activity, this activity is sent to logged by your firewall or web gateway.
  2. When WebSpy Vantage first encounters log records for a particular user or site, it opens a session for that user or site.
  3. Vantage keeps that session open until there are no records encountered for five minutes or more.
  4. The session is then closed at the time the of the last record and the entire session’s time is calculated.
  5. The Browsing Time shown in Reports is the sum of these sessions for the item in the report, whether that is a user, site, category and so on.

Browsing Time Confusion

It is important to note that Browsing Time is an estimation only. WebSpy Vantage is looking purely at web requests flowing through your firewall or web gateway. It is not standing over a user's shoulder watching what browser tab they're looking at, or noting when they've walked away from their machine.

Some web pages may poll their website even when it is not the active browser tab (to get chat notifications etc). This behavior will keep a user's browsing session alive even if they are not physically looking at the page or even sitting at their computer.

On the other hand, other websites may download all web content to the user's machine in the first five seconds without any further polls or requests. The user may then spend 2 hours reading the web page, but WebSpy Vantage only knows about those first 5 seconds of activity.

So think of Browsing Time more along the lines of 'something was happening from the user's machine for this amount of time'.

Why Don't Browsing Times Add Up?

There can be confusion when comparing the browsing time for a user, and the browsing time for the sites that the user visited.

For example, a report may state that a user has been browsing for 6 hours, but when you run a report on the user’s activity, you may see browsing to site A being 4 hourssite B being 5 hourssite C being 6 hours - a total of 15 hours!

The totals obviously do not add up here.

The main reason for this is that the user may be browsing in multiple windows or tabs simultaneously, and other applications on their machine may also be generating traffic at the same time. These overlapping browsing sessions get merged together when viewing the 'users' total browsing time, but get separated out when viewing the 'sites' the user visited.

Another major reason for this is that their browser may be accessing many different sites simultaneously without the user knowing it.

When you browse to a website, your web browser actually downloads material from several different sites. These can be advertising servers such as doubleclick.net, visitor tracking scripts such as google-analytics.com, Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) such as fbcdn.net or akamaihd.net (both used by Facebook), social sharing widgets such as addthis.com, tweet buttons and so on.

Fastvue's Site Clean feature attempts to solve this problem (available in Vantage using the Origin Domain summary in your reports), however, there are various reasons why certain traffic may not be 'cleaned'. 

Any sites that cannot be 'cleaned' by Fastvue Site Clean will show up as separate domains that have been accessed by the user, and each will have its own browsing time.

Fastvue is continually improving the Site Clean algorithm, but please be aware that certain traffic (such as HTTPS traffic) is very difficult to clean accurately, and the 'extra' domains in the reports may bloat the browsing time figures.

See also Why is Browsing time on sites different to users 

Contact Us

If you still have questions or issues regarding browsing time, please get in touch!

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