Google’s Urchin Is Closing – Why & What To Do Next

This week marks the end of an era for Google Analytics, maybe also for the whole web analytics market place. Google announced that Urchin Software will no long be sold by the company. Urchin is the software company that was originally acquired by Google and ultimately was transformed into Google Analytics, the most used analytics tool in the market.

Differences Between Google Analytics & Urchin?

Below is a list of the main differences between the tools:

Data Collection: While Google Analytics uses a JavaScript to collect data, Urchin Software analyzed log files, which enabled tracking a few things not possible with JavaScript tags, such as: data reprocessing, search engine crawler activity, failed requests to server and unique IP tracking.

Data Storage: Urchin had the advantage of keeping the data inside the organization. However, Google Analytics also provides an opt out of sharing the data even between Google products (learn more about it in this page).

Maintenance: Urchin required more technical maintenance as the tool was hosted in-house. For example, if servers were added, removed or changed Urchin should also be configured to adapt to these changes. As Google Analytics is in the code of the website and triggered by the client, it requires very rare maintenance (only when it comes to adding functionality to the code).

Why Is Google Retiring Urchin?

Since Google Analytics was launched in 2005, the company has turned it into its flag product. Google has kept Urchin and developed it slowly since then, but the vast majority of features were added only to Analytics, including Adwords, Adsense, WebmasterTools and other important integrations and features.

I find two main reasons for this shift:

First, the product is not the focus of the company: as we saw last year, Google has been closing several initiatives and products as they believe “greater focus is crucial if we’re to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead” (quote from link above). Urchin was never a Googley product, it is hard to implement and very technical in its nature.

Second, Google Analytics is a fountain of gold. As Google Analytics data is saved on Google’s servers, it is more interesting to Google to push it. Even though I believe the data is safe and well managed, it is a precious resource for Google.

Alternatives To Urchin

Log file analysis tools have been disappearing from the market in the last few years, most probably because the JavaScript tools are easier to implement. This became more prominent as the web analytics community has branded itself as a marketing profession, raising the necessity to have simple tools that enable the end-user (marketer) to make changes, rather than IT professionals.

Wikipedia provides a list of web analytics software, which includes both log file and JavaScript tagging tools. While we see several open source tools using log files, only one of the main players still use it: IBM Unica NetInsight.

Closing thoughts

In an interview with Paul Muret, CEO & Co-Founder of Urchin and currently Director of Engineering at Google, when asked to share what was the one thing that he believes they did right, he said: “our value was to democratize the web feeling, trying to make something complex really easy to use.”

The Urchin team did just that (with the help of Google), they turned a niche market into a mainstream necessity.

Below is a short video with Brett Crosby, Urchin co-founder, where he talks about the Urchin acquisition.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Channel: Analytics | Google | Google: Analytics | Top News

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About The Author: is the Founder of Conversion Journey, a Google Analytics Certified Partner. He is also the founder of Online Behavior, a Marketing Measurement & Optimization website. You can follow him on Google+ or Twitter.

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  • http://twitter.com/urchinsoftware urchin software

    Once it launches, Angelfish (angelfishstats.com) will provide a migration path for Urchin customers. 

  • Ruth O’Leary

    The European Directive on the use of cookies means that users will be able to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics and similar systems.  Log analysis then becomes the most reliable method, and the one we were planning on using after the Directive is enforced in the UK in May.  Not any more, by the sound of it.  Great timing, guys!

  • http://www.BarnesFamily.com/ davebarnes

    I found Sawmill years ago when looking for an alternative to Urchin.

  • http://twitter.com/cgrantski Chris Grant

    Doesn’t WebTrends have a product that analyzes server logs, still?

  • http://twitter.com/anilbatra Anil Batra

    iJento (http://www.iJento.com) is an Enterprise solution that can process log files as well and be on-premise.

  • http://twitter.com/thedeshmukhs Rahul Deshmukh

    My thoughts on closing Urchin and alternatives to Urchin users. http://tinyurl.com/6sjgjo4

  • Virendra Kumar

    I quit to use Urchin. We are using another software (http://www.live2support.com) to trace website performance data.

  • Anonymous

    It seems like Piwik will be a good alternative to Urchin: open source (GPL license) and many features, active community! 

    See their blog post about Log files import and using Piwik from Urchin: http://piwik.org/blog/2012/01/piwik-best-alternative-to-urchin-web-analytics-via-log-files-import/

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