The Pageview is Dead

Here Lies the Page View 1994-2010 Last December, ComScore reported that someone finally topped Yahoo! (YHOO) in pageviews. It was News Corp’s (NWS) MySpace.

This seemed like big news at the time. “Oh my goodness! Someone beat Yahoo!” Unfortunately, a poor metric was glamourized: the pageview.

David Dueblin at On Tokyo Time amusingly writes:

The page view metric (PV) is already dead! Not everyone got the memo though…

The pageview was important because it gave Internet advertising companies a way to measure the number of users as a means to price their advertising placements. They used it like newspapers and magazines used subscriptions. In the past, this was effective.

The adoption of modern web browsers, however, has changed the game. And advertisers either don’t realize this, or have known it all along (perhaps as far back as late 2005) but didn’t want to tell anyone. Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasian suggests that some advertisers may not want a more accurate metric either:

This is a dirty little secret in the advertising business that no one wants to talk about. Media companies love to promote how many page views their properties get. They’ve used the data to build equity. They will fight it tooth and nail to protect it, perhaps by not embracing interactive technologies as quickly as they should. But that’s not going to stop the revolution from coming.

Modern web browsers have given us the ability to change a piece of a web page without reloading the entire page. This is more popularly known as Ajax. And this technique effectively makes the pageview obsolete. How? Mike Davidson explains it well:

This would be the flow in a, say, Google-engineered network experience:

1. Click over to “GoogSpace”, or whatever we want to call it. (+1 page view)
2. Click through to read and reply to all mail (0)
3. Visit a few friends’ pages (+3)
4. Edit my profile page (+1)

That’s about 5 registered page views. The rest of the interaction comes from XML/HTTP requests.

Here’s the same sequence on MySpace:

1. Click over to MySpace. (+1 page view)
2. Log in, because MySpace doesn’t remember logins very well. (+2)
3. Click through to read and reply to all mail… about three per mail. (+21)
4. Visit a few friends’ pages. (+3)
5. Reload a few pages because of server errors. (+3)
5. Edit my profile page. (+10)

That’s about 40 registered page views… and it’s not an atypical pattern at all, from what I’ve found. Many people have also mentioned that web-based IM generates a ton of clicks for them as well.

In other words: the stuff on your page can dramatically change without having to load a whole new page. Since your page doesn’t change, it doesn’t technically count as a pageview. And if you can’t count it as a pageview, what can you count? What’s a better metric?

Evan Williams of Evhead answers with: “It depends.”

If you’re talking about what’s important to pay attention to on your own site, you have to determine what your primary success criteria are and measure that as best you can. For some sites, that could be subscribers, or paying users, or revenue, or widgets deployed, or files uploaded, or what have you. It may even be pageviews.

Here’s a summary all the metrics I’ve seen used at Internet companies or mentioned elsewhere:

  • Number of signed-in active users (as opposed to number of user accounts)
  • Number of repeat unique visitors (tracked by cookies)
  • Number of relevant actions (for YouTube, it could be number of videos viewed per user)
  • Number of clicks made (Ryan Stewart of The Universal Desktop calls this the “interaction rate“)
  • Number of feed subscribers (though this wouldn’t measure visitors to your site)
  • Time spent (this can be artifically inflated, however)

I agree with Williams. It depends. The best metric is the one that’s relevant for your application and/or market. In some cases, advertisers are going to care more about the number of active users in your system. In other cases, the number of relevant actions & clicks made.

The pageview is dead. Long live the pageview.

The Web 2.0 Lorem Ipsum Generator

Last Friday, the MIT Advertising Lab gave me a fun idea: a Web 2.0 Lorem Ipsum Generator!

So I grabbed some JavaScript “lorem ipsum” generation code from subterrane, compiled a list of made-up company names from TechCrunch’s company index (as of today), randomized the names, and whipped up this handy generator. Now you can greek your mock-ups in true Web 2.0 style!

UPDATE 2011.12.7: This generator now has it’s own site! I present to you The New Web 2.0 Lorem Ipsum Generator.

Battlestar Wikipedia

Wikipedia vs MicrosoftBizThoughts… Wikipedia… Major controversy… check it out. (Okay, I admit, it’s not funny at all when I do it.)

I first heard about the controversy on TechCrunch. And yes, this article’s title is a rip, er, I mean homage, to TechCrunch’s article “Battleground Wikipedia” and Battlestar Galatica. (I know, I won’t quit my day job.)

The controversy started when Microsoft (MSFT) employee Doug Mahugh, an Open XML evangelist, hired Rick Jelliffe, a standards activist, to edit and correct the Wikipedia entry on Microsoft Office Open XML. This was seen as a conflict of interest and against one of Wikipedia’s core principles: “that articles must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV).”

I think such controversies are inevitable in an open & collaborative authoring environment such as a wiki. While the NPOV rule is necessary for articles to remain unbiased, what if you see obvious errors about your organization, or worse, yourself? Wikipedia’s own founder, Jimmy Wales, went through this. As have others. Another case involved John Seigenthaler, ex-publisher and current chairman of the Tennessee newspaper The Tennessean. In November 2005, he discovered that the Wikipedia article on him indicated that he was involved with the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. After having it removed, he declared in an op-ed to USA Today that: “Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool.”

This begs the question: Is an open & collaborative authoring environment an imperfect tool for research? How accurate is it, if there are no gatekeepers for quality? Alexander Halavais, assistant professor of interactive communications at Quinnipiac University, decided to test this question in 2004. He intentionally created 13 errors in Wikipedia, from outright lies to seemingly credible facts. In contrast to the four months that John Seigenthaler’s inaccuracies existed, Alexander Halavais’ errors were corrected in less than three hours. This has made Halavais a believer, even though many academics still remain skeptical.

In December 2005, Nature tackled this skepticism with a study that compared the accuracy of Wikipedia against Encyclopaedia Britannica. They found that the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies while Britannica contained about three. Not bad for an open & collaborative authoring environment! Britannica has since responded with criticism against the study.

In Halavais’ blog, he sums up the Microsoft controversy and Wikipedia factual accuracy well:

Wikipedia is built on the idea that good material will rise to the top. It specifically does not ban idiots, ideologues, or conspiracy theorists. Why is it that money should make things that much worse? I think this highlights a larger problem. We don’t care who you are, as long as you are not paid, seems to me to be a fuzzy and difficult line to draw.

Wikipedia is built on the idea that the community is large enough to root out misinformation or bias and fix it. Why not trust that?

I don’t believe Mahugh’s actions were that atrocious. I think it’s fair to raise an eyebrow, but it should raise an eyebrow to the intrinsic accuracy concerns over open & collaborative authoring environments (if you believe there are any accuracy concerns).

Mahugh went out of his way to find an expert in the XML community and even specified that: “We don’t need to ‘approve’ anything you have to say, our goal is simply to get more informed voices into the debate… feel free to state your own opinion.” Sounds to me like he was trying to carefully navigate the NPOV rule while improving what he felt were inaccuracies in the entry. What would Seigenthaler, or even Wales himself have done?

Wallstrip Chat… Smaaart Cat…

For some reason, everytime I watch Wallstrip’s interview of James Altucher, I crack up. The quirky Lindsay Campell starts the clip off with this bluesy line:

Wallstrip chat… James Altucher… Smaaart cat… Check it out.

Cracks me up!

It was my introduction to Wallstrip. After seeing it, I thought that Lindsay was going to open up every show with a similar bluesy line. Alas, she does not (bummer) – though she does do & say plenty of quirky things in the other shows.

Yesterday’s show, Greetings from Phoenix, is good too. Check out how proud Lindsay is after she hits the first ball. Also, from Howard Lindzon:

One thing that I’ve always wanted is clean balls… very important.

Them’s words to live by.

What if Yahoo! had purchased Google?

Yahoo + GoogleFred Vogelstein published an article in Wired last week entitled “How Yahoo Blew It.” It’s gotten a bit of buzz in the blogosphere since then.

The article discusses Yahoo!’s (YHOO) potential purchase of Google (GOOG) in the summer of 2002. (Disclosure: I’m a Yahoo! employee and shareholder.)

It made me wonder. What if Yahoo! really had purchased Google back then?

In Terry’s Shoes

Before we get there, let’s first re-examine Terry Semel’s decision. Put yourself in his shoes. It’s the summer of 2002. The dot-com had dot-bombed. Lots of Internet companies had gone or were going out of business. Even you had to lay off some of your employees last year.

But this year, your finances are improving. You’ve raised your free cash flow to rougly $220 million. Your market cap is about $10 billion. The next step for Yahoo! is to purchase some competent search and search advertising technology, since Google and Overture are proving that these business models work.

So you make a pitch to Google for $3 billion dollars. It’s a lot for you, but you figure it’s a fair sum. They turn it down. So then you make a pitch for Inktomi and Overture for a combined total of about $1.6 billion. They accept. At that price, it feels like you’ve gotten a great bargain!

In Terry’s defense, he made what he thought were smart business decisions. I don’t know if many others would have made different decisions back then.

Yahoo! + Google

Now let’s say Google accepted the $3 billion. Yahoo! gains search and search advertising technology. The search advertising market grows exponentially and Yahoo’s stock soars. Maybe not at the levels Google reached, but it’s an impressive climb.

The integration with Google is relatively easy. Any software engineer will tell you that massive integration projects rise in complexity with the number of integration points. Inktomi and Overture would have been two integration points. Google is only one.

(This is just a gross generalization, of course, but from a high level, it probably would have been easier to integrate Google than Inktomi and Overture.)

The search market now consists of Yahoo!, Microsoft (MSFT), and AOL (TWX). The press cries that it’s Yahoo! vs Microsoft. MSN enters desktop search immediately, followed by a late entry into the search advertising market when Ray Ozzie climbs on board.

Yahoo!, on the other hand, doesn’t provide any major updates to Yahoo! Maps or Yahoo! Mail, at least not in the way that it has now. Without the threats of Google Maps and Gmail, Yahoo! doesn’t push into the rich internet application space as quickly. Also, the mash-up phenomenon is birthed from start-ups, instead of Google Maps.

So while Yahoo! is making all of its shareholders happy as clams, it doesn’t innovate its web products as much. Instead, it turns around and fights Microsoft in the desktop and device markets. The press heralds this as a smart move; Yahoo! has dominated the web products world, so now it must contend with Microsoft in desktops and devices.

Competition Makes One Stronger

The lack of a formidable competitor generally means a company doesn’t fight as hard. That’s not to say Yahoo! wouldn’t have continued to evolve its web products, but it might not have evolved as aggressively. Ironically, many of Yahoo!’s products may have become better because of Google.

Does this mean Terry Semel made the right decision? Well, I think he made the rational decision at the time. It’s the relatively slower integration of Overture that hurt Yahoo!, not the presence of Google in the market.

A New Kind of Social Network?

MyBlogLog Is MyBlogLog a new kind of social network? Sure it is. Let’s analyze.

A social network, in the sociological sense, is a social structure of individuals connected through various levels of familiarity. MyBlogLog certainly is that. But how does it compare to a typical online social network, such as Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook?

A typical online social network has several definable qualities. These qualities can be duplicated in the blogosphere with some effort; online social networks just make it very, very easy. (And easy + desirable usually = quick adoption.)

  • A representation of one’s identity – A profile page, including:
    • Personal info
    • Interests
    • Photos
    • A blog
    • 1st degree connections
    • Contact tools
  • A means to manage your connections – Adding, deleting, & grouping connections
  • A means to interact with varying degrees of connections – Via contact tools
  • Reciprocal connections – A connection between two individuals is visible on each other’s profile page

MyBlogLog basically is traffic & visitor tracking software that includes a widget to display some of those visitors on your site. (Visitors need to have an account with MyBlogLog to be visible; and why wouldn’t you want one? It’s so cool!) It is commonly used on blogs; without a blog, MyBlogLog alone isn’t a social network. A typical user of a MyBlogLog widget has:

  • A representation of one’s identity – A personal site, usually a blog, including:
    • Personal info
    • Interests
    • Photos
    • A blog
    • 1st degree connections – in the form of a blogroll
    • Contact tools
  • A means to manage your connections – As simple as managing one’s blogroll
  • A means to interact with varying degrees of connections – Via email, blog comments, IM, etc.
  • Reciprocal connections – Oops! Blogs don’t always have this.

Does this mean MyBlogLog isn’t a typical online social network? Yes. Blogs + MyBlogLog doesn’t give you reciprocal connections. Just because you add me to your blogroll doesn’t mean I’m going to add you (though if you ask nicely…).

However, MyBlogLog does give you something extra:

  • Visitor visibility – The ability to see who’s visited a site

Before this, blog comments were the primary means to truly know who’s visited your blog. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of a blog’s readers will write a comment. Now you, and your other visitors, can see your audience. Typical online social networks don’t offer this.

These visitors still aren’t reciprocal connections though (and just because they’ve been to your site once doesn’t mean they’re going to return). But over time, you’ll see repeat visitors. Online social networks gave you the ability to know your audience – if a new visitor wanted to interact with you, he/she typically would add you as a connection.

Now MyBlogLog is providing a new level of visitor visibility. (I see you!)

Hello world!

Ever notice how, when you start a new blog, you see a “Hello World!” entry sitting there? Like a loyal dog waiting for you when you get home from work?

Ever wonder why it’s “Hello World!”, and not “Hi Ma!” or “Look, my very first entry!” or “Achtung, new blog!”?

“Hello World!” is a popular programming phrase. Whenever someone learns a new computer programming language, it is common to write one’s first program to simply display the words “Hello World!” on the screen.

As Wikipedia puts it:

A “hello world” program is a software program that prints out “Hello world!” on a display device. It is used in many introductory tutorials for teaching a programming language. Such a program is typically one of the simplest programs possible in a computer language.

So I think it’s appropriate, given that this is the introductory post of this new blog, that I start off with a “Hello World!” program of my own, in the very first programming language I ever learned: BASIC!

10 PRINT "Hello World!"
20 PRINT "Welcome to BizThoughts by Mike Lee!"
30 PRINT "----------------------------------------"
40 REM Programming in BASIC is fun!
50 GOTO 40
60 PRINT "I hope you enjoy this new..."
70 PRINT "Hey, wait, how come this text isn't printing?"