Over the past few years, we have literally seen hundreds of companies that provide all kinds of segmented web analytic capabilities. From a small industry with very few solutions and with almost no successful M&A or investments, this industry suddenly became fertile ground for hundreds of solutions and services. All the industry’s “monsters” (i.e., Unica, CoreMetrics, Omniture, etc.) have since been acquired, and dozens of start-up investments and acquisitions are performed each year.
However, it seems that we are now looking at the beginning of a strange phase in the Web Analytics Industry: From almost zero privacy we are moving towards almost zero transparency. From being able to track almost everything about the user, you will soon have to once again rely on the IP and other server-side techniques, in order to identify the user. And you will have to ask your visitors to opt-in, in order to be able to track their activity.
Lately, these changes can be seen almost every day: companies (both vendors and clients) are being sued for privacy issues, new laws and restrictions are being passed, metrics that you used to rely on no longer exist, etc. Technical changes have been made that no longer enable you to identify the user, and companies such as Google have changed their privacy policies, and now even hide search terms when they refer a visitor to your site.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for user privacy. I believe the user should be able to understand what can and cannot be tracked. As a user, there are definitely things I would prefer to keep to myself and not share with the site I am currently visiting (for example, the site’s ability to access my browser’s history). However, I do think that the present approach should be a less extreme.
Not only is the present situation extreme, it is also rather confusing. There are hundreds of tools that the website owner or customer (web analyst / marketer / blog owner) can use, there are very few all-in-one suites, the price range is almost inconceivable, the customer has to continuously choose between services and turnkey solutions, there are no set standards, there an infinite number of terminologies and metrics, etc. On top that, the customer also has to deal with privacy changes, that in turn lead to technical changes, loss of functionality, and in some extreme cases, lawsuits…
As always, it seems that we have to go from one extreme to that other before finding the right middle ground.
In my next post I will try to explain why in my opinion – and probably that of others – we are entering an era of mergers and acquisitions (but not for positive reasons), consolidation of services, and to some extent: a “Natural Selection” between the numerous services available.