Analyze This! The Future of Web Analytics

Two recent independent developments promise to shakeup the way traffic is measured on the Internet.  First Google announced plans to soon allow users to opt-out of being tracked through Google Analytics.  Secondly, the increased deployment of Flash cookies over HTML cookies has given analysts and business people a bit of encouragement, as Flash cookies are more sophisticated and harder to detect than their HTML counterpart, stoking the fears of privacy advocates wary of the amount of information collected on Google and search engine servers.

Anxiety Over the Future of Analytics

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Google’s announcement poses some serious questions as to how traffic will be measured on the Internet.  Precipitated by growing concerns over privacy on the web, Google appears to be attempting to set itself in front of the issue and above the fray.  As Google Analytics is already an imperfect system, statistical purists find themselves asking whether data can be trusted once users can prevent their information from being tracked.  Once a significant number of Internet users opt-out, Google Analytics information may be rendered less useful.  Businesses will not doubt turn to other analytic services; however, the question remains whether other analytics tools will follow Google’s lead and offer users the same option.

On the flip side of the debate, analysts look to the promise of Flash cookies.  As mentioned above, Flash cookies are more sophisticated and pose hurdles for a user to detect and delete.  Furthermore, Flash cookies, one of the Internet’s better kept secrets, can re-spawn after deletion.  The additional hurdles users would need to overcome to free themselves from Flash tracking than simply opting out of Google Analytics could ensure that analytic information would retain its accuracy and integrity.

Not So Fast, Flash Cookies

Unfortunately for businesses and analysts, the public isn’t quite as ignorant to Flash cookies as they would like.  A recent article in OnlineMediaDaily claims that 7% of Flash cookies are deleted, which may not seem like a significant proportion; however, this number has doubled in the past 10 months.

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