Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Site Owner's Bill of Rights

Before I even say anything, this blog post is in no way hypocritical in terms of my opinions on Facebook. Read the whole post before thinking so.

Along with Google's many awesome releases and new stuff has been a not so pleasant release. A beta extension for Chrome has recently been published that allows users to opt out of having their data collected by Google Analytics. The feature was probably released in concerns over the massive control Google is exercising over the Internet's data: to know that Google collects statistics about you for every site you visit is a very scary thought. And putting aside the fact that Google has run into a number of problems with opt-out before (need we remember the Buzz launch), I believe this new extension breaks the very fundamental concepts put forth in the Web 2.0 revolution, violates the bill of rights between the site owner and user, and is all around the complete opposite of what Google should be doing with Google Analytics.

When Web 2.0 came around, the exciting thing about it was the fact that users could now interact and edit the content they originally just read. Site owners could allow other people to post comments, edit articles, and whatever else the imaginations of developers have come up with over the years. Among these exciting concepts is the ability of the site owner to see what users are contributing to and editing the site's content. What would interactivity be without knowing who is interacting? It's almost like a violation of a defendant's right to see his or her accuser, and with Facebook concocting all these privacy disasters the entire ordeal might as well be a court case anyway. It's not fair that the user can come to a site, interact, post content, edit the site, maybe even vandalize or troll the site, but the site owner cannot even find out what browser the person is using. Obviously, just because Google released a beta of this extension does not mean the end of website statistics like Google Analytics, but I'll get to that a little later.

As I mentioned in the disclaimer at the top of the post, this is not hypocritical. You're probably wondering what I'm talking about. I know that at least one person is going to point all of this out and say, "Well, if site owners have the fundamental right to collect and use data about there users, then why is Facebook wrong to do exactly that?"Well, the dilemma there is the data: most websites are public interfaces that anybody can interact with and anybody can see. Facebook is a private website with privacy settings, however good they may be, and restrictions on who views what content. A public site owner to taking statistics on the browsers the site's visitors use is a much different ballpark from a private social networking site gathering personal data and spreading it across the table to various companies.

But putting aside the fact that this feature is totally wrong and should not have even been considered, why is Google spending their time on such a ridiculous extension when they could be devoting their efforts to so many more important things, such as improving Google Analytics. The statistic collection service offered by Google for free to website owners has barely changed in a while (at least as far as I can remember), and there are quite a number of other sites that do the same job better. Instead of figuring out how to make Google Analytics less useful to site owners by allowing users to opt-out, maybe they should make it more useful by actually improving the service and implementing important features. Take @holdenpage for example: Clicky has right then and there something Google does not, which is public statistics. You cannot let everybody view your Google Analytics data like you can in Clicky. Nor can you view users on the map in realtime as they visit your site like you can in Clicky. These features bring up obvious privacy issues, but still it shows that Google Analytics has been falling behind.

I can only hope that my readers continue to allow Analytics to pick up their data, because that is the only way I even know if people still read this site (hello out there :) ). Site owners should have the right to know who is going on their site, just as store owners have the right to know what customers are coming into their stores. And Google needs to realize that as important as the consumer is, the site owner still exists.

1 comment:

  1. Tyler, its Kevin. I tried to read this but couldn't because it just gets too tedious.

    A reason that we apparently won the Forensics Comp was because our report was clear and concise.(IDK. Thats what they said.)

    But your blog posts are like essays. They follow the same format and don't really deviate from it.

    For a blog you have to keep it simple and sweet. Like for instance if I was talking about the IPad, I'd insta jump into what I like and don't like.

    In an age where Youtube reigns supreme no one is gonna sit down and have to force information into their eyes.

    The only time I'd say an essay is usable as a blog post is if you have a story to tell or are going in depth into one particular topic. This way the people that care about the topic are going to read in depth while the others just move on. With your blog if everything's all in depth, no one has the time to sit through it all.

    Again, take some hints from Gizmodo and Lifehacker and Engadget.