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February 9, 2017

What you need to know about “?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0” in Google Analytics

TL;DR version: When you see “?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0″ in your Google Analytics, that means you are getting traffic from Chinese social network WeChat. For the whole story, see the details below.


While examining the channels section of your Google Analytics dashboard, you may have wondered if all those direct visitors actually typed in your URL and navigated straight to your website. You may have also noticed that some of the destination URLs or landing pages for direct visitors had mysterious parameters added to the end of your web page URL. Today I will explain what you need to know about ?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0 in Google Analytics.

?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0 in Google Analytics

The Mystery of ?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0 in Google Analytics

When I first noticed these direct visitors, I ignored them and assumed that they were spammers like the Russian “Secret.ɢoogle.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!” guy.

Yet these visitors caught my attention after our direct website traffic spiked. Almost all these new visitors’ destination URLs had this mysterious parameter at the end that started with “?from=.”

I drilled into the data and discovered that 100% of these visitors were on mobile devices. Some of them stayed long enough to read the article, and some of them bounced. In other words, they acted like any other normal visitor.

But who are they? Why did they visit IVANNOVATION.com exactly? And why did they cause my Google Analytics dashboard to record extra parameters after the URL?

A Google search showed me several articles (here, here, and here) about this extra parameter in Google Analytics. Yet all the articles were in Chinese, not one was in English.

So we researched the Chinese sources, and today we will reveal the mystery of ?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0 in Google Analytics to the English-speaking world.


Also Read: Three Reasons to Translate your App into Chinese


Who are these visitors?

Not only are these visitors not spammers, they are not even direct visitors.

They are social visitors. What social network? WeChat.

WeChat (微信) is a Chinese social network that began as a voice messaging app. Young mobile users, who found typing messages (in Chinese) bothersome, latched onto an app that would allow them to send each other short audio messages using their voices rather than their fingers.

WeChat added social sharing features like those on Facebook, and it ballooned in popularity. Now WeChat has 846 million monthly active users (as of Q3 2016). Compared to Facebook at 1.65 billion monthly active users and Twitter at 317 million monthly active users, WeChat is a major social network on the global stage.

When WeChat users click on your article shared via the WeChat app, your Google Analytics dashboard will display the destination URL with a variation of ?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0 at the end.


Learn More: How to Build a Multilingual Website? Here Are the First Steps [Complete Guide]


Have visitors on your site from China? It's time to translate.

What do the parameters mean?

If you look at ?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0, you will notice there are two sections: the ?from= section and the isappinstalled= section.

The string, isappinstalled, means that the user’s device has the WeChat app installed. The value after isappinstalled should always be 0.

There are several variations of the parameters that come after ?from= in the URL. Here is each variation with an explanation.

  • message: a user sent a message to another user with a text link and no image (See (A) in the image below.)
  • singlemessage: a user sent a message to another user with a link and an image (See (B) below.)
  • groupmessage: a user posted a link with an image to a WeChat group (微信群). (See (C) below.)
  • timeline: a user posted a link with an image to his or her “Moments” feed (朋友圈). (See (D) below.)
WeChat message text link with no image. WeChat message link with image. WeChat group link with image. WeChat Moments link with image.

(A) WeChat message text link with no image. (B) WeChat message link with an image. (C) WeChat group link with an image. (D) WeChat Moments link with an image.

Here are all the variations that we have seen on our Google Analytics dashboard.

  • ?from=message&isappinstalled=0
  • ?from=singlemessage&isappinstalled=0
  • ?from=groupmessage&isappinstalled=0
  • ?from=timeline
  • ?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0

So when you see “?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0″ in Google Analytics, you can be sure that these mysterious visitors are not spammers. As a matter of fact, they are real people, interested in your content, and coming to your website from a Chinese social media network.

What types of articles from your website are popular on WeChat? Do you have any special tricks to manipulate how these visitors appear in your Google Analytics dashboard? Please share your ideas below.


Darren Jansen, Business development and content manager for IVANNOVATION has a lifetime love for tech and languages. At IVANNOVATION he helps software developers get professional localization for their apps, software, and websites. On his time away from the office, he can be found hiking the Carolina wilderness or reading Chinese literature.

April 30, 2015

Three Reasons to Translate your App into Chinese

Tapping a market of 1.3 billion consumers sounds like a no-brainer. Fortunately, in our interconnected world, you can communicate with anyone anywhere in the globe. You can develop an app, and it is available for billions of people in an instant. But will they ever actually find your app? How will you make them want to use it?

If you want to reach into the wallets of China’s netizens, your app has to take some Chinese lessons.

Leo Liu, the greater China country manager for PopCap Games, the developer of Plants vs. Zombies, said, “We were amazed by how much support we got from our fans in China after we localized Plants vs. Zombies on iPhone into Chinese. The comment boards were flooded with positive comments, and in only three days, the Chinese version reached the number one paid application spot on the China App Store. We’re selling twice as many copies now, in Chinese, than we ever sold in English.”

If you ever want to see the kind of Chinese app store success that Plants vs. Zombies achieved, you’ll have to translate your app into Chinese. Here are three reasons your app should speak Chinese.

Chinese Plants Vs. Zombies

Chinese Plants Vs. Zombies

Chinese Internet and Smartphone Users Outnumber American Users

In China, a country with a population of 1.3 billion, 47.9% of the people use the Internet. That is about 649 million people. (In comparison, the number of American Internet users is just about 280 million.) Out of that number, according to Reuters, 86% of them use phones to access the Internet.

Clearly, if you want to do business in China, you have to master mobile. Over 39% of Internet usage in China takes place on mobile devices. That includes shopping. In the third quarter of 2014 Chinese used mobile devices to spend more than $37.95 billion.

As Kendra Schaefer says, “Mobile First? Puh-leez. China Is Already Going Mobile Only.”

China Has a Low Average English Level

Out of 63 countries ranked by English First’s English Proficiency Index, China ranked 37, receiving a grade of “low” for English level.

Of course, millions of Chinese people have amazing English knowledge and skills, even better than some Americans or British, but most of the proficient English speakers live in a few first-tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

In second-tier cities and in the countryside live millions of consumers with little to no English ability. You don’t want to assume that those who cannot read your app’s user interface will have the patience to use it anyway.

Studies show that even those who can speak English still prefer to use websites and apps that are translated into their own language.

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The Journal of Consumer Research says that content written in a person’s native language will cause a greater emotional reaction than content written in their second language. Authors of the study said, “Our findings show that, in general, messages expressed in consumers’ native languages tend to be perceived as more emotional than messages expressed in their second language.”

As an app developer, you should speak the language of people’s home and heart. Only if you make that connection by translating your app into Chinese will users in China want to download, and perhaps spend money on your app.

Chinese Use Their Phones for Everything

The app WeChat acts not only as a messaging app but also as an online wallet similar to PayPal. What’s more, you can use it to hail taxis, to order groceries, and to play games. It will even tell you what parts of the city are most crowded at any given time.

In China, telephones have a breadth of function that phones in America don’t fulfill in the same way. While PayPal is still rarely used in brick-and-mortar stores, WeChat payments are now common all over China.

WeChat Payment - Translate your app into Chinese

WeChat Payment

Clearly Chinese are used to using apps to deal with every aspect of their lives.

Although studies show that that Chinese prefer not to pay for apps, they do love to spend money in apps. Ninety percent of the money made from apps comes from in-app purchases.

As Internet usage in China continues to grow with a mobile-centric bent, be sure that app developers have endless opportunities to reach the Chinese consumers and increase their global revenue. There has never been a better time than now to translate your app into Chinese.


Darren Jansen, Business development and content manager for IVANNOVATION has a lifetime love for tech and languages. At IVANNOVATION he helps software developers get professional localization for their apps, software, and websites. On his time away from the office, he can be found hiking the Carolina wilderness or reading Chinese literature.