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January 09, 2008

Why can't you install Gatineau? (And other questions)

floppy We've had an interesting post over on the Gatineau discussion forum from Dan Regalia. In his post, Dan asks why we've chosen to provide Gatineau as a hosted-only service, with no API or connections to Microsoft's (or anyone else's) CRM platform, and no ability to run locally. I started writing a response to Dan's post on the Gatineau forum, but given the slightly wider readership of this blog, and the broader questions that Dan raises, I thought I'd put those answers here. Dan, if you're reading this, I hope you don't mind that I've answered your question in this way. If you have further questions, you're more than welcome to contact me directly.

You can read Dan's full question here. But here's a slightly shortened version (for those of you unfamiliar with DeepMetrix, the company we acquired to build Gatineau, LiveStats is their previous product line - see www.deepmetrix.com for more information):

While Livestats was valuable as something I could run locally, and manage my log files, (5 years worth of log files) etc, I'm finding that this is no longer the case with Gatineau.  So, any website trends that I've had until I get my beta code, are basically lost.  Secondly, there is no integration points with any of my current systems, such as our CRM or custom membership providers.  I am going to assume that all I get is a javascript link that I put into my webpage (much like i do for Google) and view a bunch of canned reports.

I guess what I'm saying is that while the current version of Gatineau, as it stands, will be no better than what's currently available for free from Google, we will not have any access points for system integration, and we will not own our data.  While this may be good for a personal website, or a small business, this is not something that I would not recommend for a corporate solution.  Google at least has Urchin, which is available to host on your own servers, but integration with that system may prove to be too large of project that we want to tackle. 

I would expect though, from Microsoft Corp (not the Live franchise)  is to have something available for us (corporate developers and system integrators) to tinker with and build internal systems with, with our own bells and whistles.  I am hoping that this may be something that is part of Gatineau in the near future, if not the final release.  I wouldn't mind purchasing a 'Corporate Edition' vs. a private or small biz edition if one were available with features that were addressed above (hint hint hint)

The Question I pose to the forum is this:  What did you expect to see with Gatineau, and what did you want to do with it?

There are several interesting questions here. I'll try to pull them out and answer them below.

 

1. Why is there no installable version of Gatineau?

The best way to answer this question is to look at some of the reasons why we are introducing Gatineau, and some of the qualities of the service. Gatineau is intended to be a complement to and extension of the services we provide in our adCenter platform. For those of you who are not familiar with it, adCenter is our self-service advertising platform that allows advertisers to buy paid search and contextual ads on Microsoft's network (live.com and the MSN network).

Our advertiser customers have told us that they would like to see better analysis of the effectiveness of their advertising expenditure. We also feel that adding a useful and well-integrated analytics package to our self-serve advertising platform, we'll make that platform more attractive to advertisers. And finally, given that it is known that web analytics helps marketers to spend their online budgets more effectively, we're hopeful that the analytics capabilities in adCenter will lead to a little more money being spent in adCenter.

To achieve these goals, Gatineau needs to be tightly integrated into adCenter. And because adCenter is a hosted service, Gatineau needs to be a hosted service. Plus, there are a number of key areas of functionality (in particular, the demographic segmentation capability) which can only be delivered via a hosted service.

Now, we could (as Google has done) introduce a separate version of Gatineau which is installable, and perhaps charge for it. Doing so would certainly offer our existing LiveStats customers a smoother transition to a new product. Indeed, it's something we thought long and hard about doing. I can't say that this is something we'll never do, but for the time being (and the foreseeable future) we have taken the decision not to provide the software in this way because we feel our engineering and support resources will be more efficiently allocated against a single product. I know from my experience running engineering and support for WebAbacus that supporting an installed product is no trivial matter - and Joel Spolsky agrees with me, so there.

To address the other part of Dan's question here, we don't feel that just because we are offering Gatineau as a hosted-only service that it therefore is exactly the same as Google Analytics. After all, Omniture and Webtrends' primary offerings are also hosted services, and they compete very robustly with Google's product. We feel that the demographic data in Gatineau is a significant differentiator, as well as its custom taxonomy capabilties - and those are just beta 1 features. From beta 2 onwards, we'll be seeing the advanced visualizations that I've trailed previously, as well as integration of paid search bid data from the three major search engines. So we're confident that Gatineau's not just another "me, too" product.

 

2. Why no integration?

Another aspect of Dan's post questions whether there will be any integration hooks in Gatineau to connect it to CRM, CMS and identity systems, and the like. It is one of the slight downsides of offering a hosted web analytics service that offering integration into customers' own systems becomes more challenging - not solely from a technical point of view, but more from a data ownership perspective.

At the moment, the only information I can share in this area is that Gatineau V1 won't contain any hooks or APIs to integrate external systems; but this is certainly something we're looking at. In these deliberations we need to make some key decisions about which integration points would be most valuable for our customers and partners.

Would it be most useful to offer a souped-up/automated data export feature so that other providers of services can integrate Gatineau data into, for example, CRM systems? Or would it be more useful to provide an interface UI so that other companies can "re-skin" Gatineau and offer it as part of their own suite of online services? Or on the third hand, should Gatineau be able to import data from other systems, keyed against some provided user identifier? If you have thoughts, my comments box is only a click away (well, probably a click, a scroll, a bit more clicking, tabbing and typing, and then a final click, but you get the idea).

 

3. What's the vision for Gatineau?

As I mentioned above, Gatineau is a key extension to our advertising platform value proposition. Even before our acquisition of aQuantive, this was a 10-figure business for us. Not only are we now in the business of selling advertising space on our own properties, such as MSN and Hotmail; we also represent (i.e. resell) a huge amount of ad inventory from third parties, ranging from Facebook through to Digg, CNBC, and the publishers who participate in our DRIVEpm ad network.

To compete effectively in this business, you have to offer advertisers great tools and data to help them make smart advertising decisions which will give them the best return on investment; and you have to offer intelligence and tools to publishers to make it easy for them to maximize the value they get from their inventory.

Analytics is central to this story. For advertisers, it delivers the insights about who the audience is, and how they're behaving after they click, helping those advertisers to make better media buying decisions, and optimize their site for conversions. For publishers, analytics provides the insight into content usage across the audience base which enables the publisher to sell that content (or advertising within it) at the best price.

What this means for Gatineau and our analytics efforts going forward is that you can expect to see Analytics capability very tightly integrated with our advertising tools, for both advertisers and publishers. I can't comment on the exact form this integration will take, or the timing on specific aspects, but if you're trying to understand the direction Gatineau will take in the future, you can be sure that it will continue to serve these two audiences as a priority. After all, they're the ones paying the bills.

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