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April 01, 2008

Just what the world needs: another web analytics tool

image I'm amazed and kind of impressed that there are still people out there who want to get into the web analytics business. After all, it's not like there aren't plenty of tools to choose from. And the challenges of making money from web analytics are well documented (by me, anyway). So I applaud Elie El Khoury and his team at Fusion Media Labs for their chutzpha in launching Woopra (if that's not a naming decision driven by .com domain availability, I'll eat my hat) at this relatively late stage in the game.

Before I go on, yes, I know we're in the middle of launching our own, not-exactly-first-to-market web analytics service, but as I've explained elsewhere, if you want to be in the web analytics business today, you really need to be in some other related businesses as well to pay the bills, and to provide a compelling reason to use your app. So I shall be interested to see how Woopra is monetized (there's no mention of pricing on the site as yet).

Elie's background is in graphic design, which can be seen in the very shiny (and very Visual Sciences-esque) UI design. But what else is there to Woopra? The (hilarious) demo video (click the link before it's replaced with something sensible) doesn't give much away.

Well, Woopra seems mainly to be aimed at lower-volume (< 10,000 PIs/day) sites, principally blogs. And it focuses on providing very detailed, real-time data about on-site behavior. I have to say that I'm a bit of a skeptic about real-time data - it has the "wow" factor that helps to get people engaged with web analytics, but in all the years I've been in this industry I've only encountered one or two very specific cases where it could be genuinely useful, and even then, 20-minute old data would have been just as useful. Other features include real-time notifications and visitor tagging.

Boo!

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The most interesting (and alarming) aspect of Woopra, though (which is linked to the real-time component) is the ability to launch a live chat session with someone visiting your site; so if you're watching someone blundering about the aisles of your virtual store, you can jump in and say "Hey! Looks like you're lost. Can I help?"

I can say in no uncertain terms that this would scare the bejesus out of me. It violates the (unwritten, unspoken) "pact" that exists between website users and owners; many users know at some level that their behavior is being tracked, but as long as that tracking doesn't get too "scary" (e.g. receiving an e-mail just after visiting a site that lists all the things you looked at), they're fairly comfortable. I predict that this feature will create significant discomfort for users; not to mention that it will be hard verging on impossible for a webmaster or site support person to monitor behavior accurately enough to actually justify jumping in and offering help. To be fair, the system does also allow the site user to initiate the chat, which is perfectly acceptable.

Reading this post back, I feel like a terrible old curmudgeon, criticizing this product - it has a kind of youthful enthusiasm to it that was once common in the industry but is now becoming less so as it matures (and now I can add condescending to my list of vices, too). I hope that Elie and his team can find a niche for it.

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