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Friday, April 01, 2005

Google Approaches Infinity

What's this? Two April Fool's jokes this year? Logging out of GMail I noticed a cute little joke about Google offering "infinity +1" storage. Come to think of it, neither joke approaches the hilarity of PigeonRank (Google's most memorable April goof), so perhaps they're going on the quantity theory of comedy.

Anyway there is some substance to Google's GMail announcement today, in addition to the laffs. They've upped storage to 2GB and will continue to increase that size "as we are able." Meaning, "we will not be outgigged by Yahoo!!" They also just rolled out colored text & other HTML formatting. Still waiting on smileys though.

Can it be true that GMail is only one year old? Whew.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Domain Name that Nearly Got Away

If I can't be original, at least I can be helpful. Seth wrote about spring cleaning on his blog. I'll keep this one short. Just three little pick-me-ups to get you rolling into the best time of year (in this hemisphere anyway). #2 might have to wait until next spring, though, depending on how ambitious you get.
  • Penelope Trunk is right. Clean your desk. Today, with that big pile of scary-looking clutter all around you, every day you come into your office mortified and sweaty, feeling like there is so much to catch up on. Clean it all up and you realize the truth, you're an effective, busy, competent person who can begin and end their day, rather than feeling like the day needs to follow you around all night and haunt you.
  • Take a stand against an established monopoly. Yep, I know, you probably have enough money to afford that cellphone plan, and inertia rules. That ain't the point. Check out some upstart like Virgin Mobile who doesn't appear to be trying to screw you over. When Apple or Google come out with a newfangled phone thingy complete with a new kind of wireless network, buy that. Yeah, I know these are all big companies too, but we take what we can get. In the meantime, work on small victories. In my local grocery store, Melitta sells coffee filters 40 to a pack for an outrageous price that works out to 6 cents per unit. The bagged private-label bulk filter 150-packs that are sitting right near these: 75% less at 1.5 cents per unit. Why would anyone buy Melitta's? I can feel my eyes glazing over already with this one, so let's hope that AppaGoogaGigaCoolPhone device comes out soon so I have something more interesting to talk about than discount paper goods.
  • Keep track of your domain names!!! You won't necessarily get the renewal notice. Go into your registrar's interface now, and if there are any valuable ones in there, renew them for 5 or 10 years. I thought I was on top of my stable of names until I remembered one that I paid several thousand dollars for. Not on the list! It had expired in November and I had not received the renewal notices. This is common, as the registrar pointed out: "Our renewal notice might have been blocked as spam." Great. (Luckily, I got it back.) Spring is the time for renewal. Do this now. (You might also want to take steps to lock your names to prevent some unscrupulous thief from moving your domain by submitting a false transfer request.) To domain registrars: a value-added service might be to offer a snail-mail renewal notice (you know, the kind Network Solutions used to send out) for anyone paying for premium service, for say an extra fee of $5/yr.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Google Changes Rules of Analytics Game; Acquires Urchin

A day after WebTrends was bought from its publicly-traded parent, NetIQ, for $94 million by a private equity firm, Google has acquired web analytics provider Urchin. Urchin seems a good fit with Google, as it has always seemed to have "geek appeal" and good approval ratings from webmasters. I've been doing a bit of digging into this sector recently, and it seems that Urchin's wide footprint has come largely on the strength of partnerships with web hosting companies. Sounds a lot like the way WebTrends came to be something of an industry standard long ago!

A couple or three observations:

(1) I don't think this signals the end of Google's acquisition of third-party tools and aids in the analytics, shopping cart, bid management, or similar areas. However, I also believe the ecosystem of third-party services will grow healthy, as Google now seems committed to allowing these vendors to interface with its systems;

(2) This acquisition will obviously lead to some further integrated analytics tools "by Google," building on their current free conversion tracking product. From the marketing manager's standpoint this is healthy. We need to be able to look not only at logfile type data or at conversion data, but at integrated data. A simple view of conversion stats is important to us one day, but deeper behavioral analysis or forensic investigation of low-quality traffic is important on a different day. BUT -- it's not purely about better tracking. It's also about Google continuing the trend it started with the launch of its conversion tracker: having direct access to post-click behavioral information. With the ability to see into Urchin/Google reports, Google will know a lot more about the value of a click. It can also do more to combat click fraud without relying on hearsay and inexperienced site owners to attempt to piece together behavioral patterns. There is an upside and a downside to all of this. I continue to think the lack of privacy (the downside) still outweighs the upside, since additional efficiency (the upside) is something that experienced analysts can achieve anyway. But what I think isn't going to change the fact that Google absolutely needs to get its grimy mitts on post-click data, because Microsoft and Yahoo will also be going hard after it;

(3) This once again disrupts the economics of web analytics. I (and numerous colleagues) have been talking up the idea of late that the current "middle" of the analytics space makes no sense because it deprives the buyer of high-end functionality while still being quite expensive. I've been saying that within a year, the current pricing will shift radically so that a $50,000 upper-end analytics offering would become available for one-third of that price, and a middle-tier "Cadillac log analyzer" like ClickTracks' new Optimizer product ($1,195 and up) will have to offer many more features or be completely left behind by the marketplace. I believe we are on track for that radical shift to occur within a year, and it appears that Google has precipitated the shift starting now;

(4) The Achilles heel of data analysis companies from the bottom end through the middle right up to top-drawer companies like WebTrends and Omniture must surely be data capacity. The higher-end outfits can handle all the enterprise data you can throw at them without choking on it, which is why they can command $100k/yr. and up for their services. I was rhetorically asking colleagues like Matt van Wagner of Find Me Faster: if this is all about data, and one of the reasons for high prices is the high price of computing and storage, isn't Google the king when it comes to cutting prices on storage, and expediting computing times? After all, isn't that what Rich Skrenta wrote about on his blog when he referred to Google as a global brain whose raw computing power is its hidden advantage? It appears that this is coming to pass now as Google literally moves into the analytics field, in part with an eye on cutting prices down to size. For those of us who need these kinds of data at a reasonable price, it's a welcome development. I still think a number of niche third-party providers will flourish. But they will be judged on how well they understand customers' needs, and on the service they provide. The folks who just bought Webtrends have to be a bit nervous now. Google seems likely to commodify certain aspects of the analytics game.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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