Yes, my personal preference has been to put the stats to the top of my forum sites. It's nice to get a quick glance of activity without having to scroll. But that's just me, whereas I can see that some people might first want to see who's online. The question is, did the XF team do any usability testing or gather statistics from other sources on this one, or it their personal reference? I'm sure they're open to suggestions and peer pressure, though.
As for the word "Now", it does seem unnecessary, but probably #2,583 on the priority list, hehe.