The data and analytics market has seen enormous growth in recent years and is expected to be worth $550 billion by 2028.
How Has Web Analytics Changed Over the Years?
Many millions of businesses are already relying on analytics services to better understand the behavior of their customers and optimize their web experiences. There are approximately 28 million businesses using Google Analytics today, with the world’s most popular analytics service currently in its fourth iteration.
The Origins of Web Analytics
Online data firm InfoTrust recently commissioned an interesting infographic by NowSourcing that details the origins of web analytics and the rise of Google’s dominant services.
It all began about three years after the birth of the internet with analysis of hit counters and server logs, though websites would soon become too complex for this basic analysis.
Another huge leap forward came from the company Urchin, which revolutionized web analytics by processing data in as little as 15 minutes. Previously, in the late 1990s, website data would take as long as 24 hours to be processed. This massive reduction in the time it takes to process the data propelled Urchin to the top of the analytics mountain where they worked with one out of every five Fortune 500 companies and all the major web hosts.
The Birth of Google Analytics
In 2005, Urchin was bought by Google for $30 million. They set about incorporating Urchin into their own brand and offered their own analytics that was tied in directly with Google’s web marketing offerings.
Google then introduced Universal Analytics in 2012 which enabled tracking of users across multiple devices and platforms. This worked by assigning unique IDs to each user. It also enabled the monitoring of offline behavior, providing deeper insight into demographics and giving companies much richer customer data.
In 2016, Google started incorporating machine learning to enable real-time learning.
Google Analytics 4
The fourth and latest version of Google Analytics (GA4) was introduced in 2020 and was designed to combine app and web analytics in a single platform. There had been some understandable uproar about privacy rights prior to its release, and so Google created GA4 to be more respectful of user privacy without compromising the data insights.
Google’s Universal Analytics is still going, though is due to be shut down permanently in the summer of 2023.
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I think a big motivator for Google is getting themselves off the hook for all the free data storage UA provides. There are large websites with 15 years of analytics data being stored for free. Multiply that by a lot of websites and Google is eating a lot of data storage expense. GA4 will help them get people to pay for their data storage and querying.