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A Google Blunder- the Sad Story of Urchin 164

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-analytics-is-free dept.
Anenome writes "Google has a track record of buying startups and integrating them into its portfolio. But sometimes those acquisitions go terribly wrong, as Ars Technica argues has been the case with Google's 2005 purchase of web-analytics firm Urchin Software Corp. 'In the wake of Google's purchase of the company, inquiring customers (including Ars Technica) were told that support and updates would continue. Companies that had purchased support contracts were expecting version 6 any day, including Ars. What really happened is this: Google focused its attention on Google Analytics, put all updates to Urchin's other products on the back burner, and rolled out a skeleton support team. Everyone who forked over for upgrades via a support contract never got them, even though things weren't supposed to have changed. The support experience has been awful. Since the acquisition, we have had two major issues with Urchin, and neither issue was solved by Google's support team. In fact, with one issue, we were helped up until the point it got difficult, and then the help vanished. The support team literally just stopped responding.'"
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A Google Blunder- the Sad Story of Urchin

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  • ... How a once idealistic company (or one with some good ideas at least) gets corrupted by it's own succes. They are going the way of the evil corporation real fast.

    But at least Brin and co. have their private airstrip now :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Starturtle (1148659)

      But at least Brin and co. have their private airstrip now
      I heard it was an 21-foot X-Wing model that actually flies.
    • What it really shows (Score:5, Interesting)

      by porkThreeWays (895269) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @11:21AM (#20927109)
      Is that choosing commercial or proprietary software based on the notion you get better support is a myth. I can't even tell you how many PHB's I know that are scared to do anything without a support contract. The moral of the story: Your people should be able to solve 99.9% of all software problems on their own and rely on support as little as possible. Most support contracts I've dealt with have been mostly useless and we've generally had to solve all the hard problems in house. I've pretty much lost faith in support contracts meaning anything other than "a company to sue when things go wrong". But suing a company doesn't bring back lost customers and it doesn't bring back a company that doesn't exist anymore. Blaming others is a great cop out, but I'd never base a business around the blame game.
      • by speaker of the truth (1112181) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @11:26AM (#20927203)

        Is that choosing commercial or proprietary software based on the notion you get better support is a myth.
        Given that OSS can ONLY make money from offering support (or by being sponsored by a large company) with all other things equal the likelihood is that the OSS people will offer better support, because unlike closed source companies the support is their bread and butter.
        • Additionally, if the software is popular and the original vendor provides poor support, someone else will step in with a better offer. A market economy is always better for the customer than a state granted monopoly.

          [ BTW: I guess most people "make money" on free software not by support or sponsorship, by being paid in advance by the customer for the development. I know I do. ]

          • [ BTW: I guess most people "make money" on free software not by support or sponsorship, by being paid in advance by the customer for the development. I know I do.
            Wow when given the choice between paying for code they own the copyright to or paying for code that their competitors can then freely used, I figured most companies would go with the former rather then the latter. Kudos to you for finding companies that will do the former.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Eivind Eklund (5161)
              Most companies only need functionality from software, not rights - their strategic advantage. Contributing back to the core open source project will usually give tactical advantages, such as other people maintaining the code. The competitors usually don't even run the same software.

              This even goes for proprietary derivates of BSD licensed open codebases; FreeBSD has gotten a ton of stuff (e.g, the SCSI stack, the netgraph stack) from proprietary derivates.

              Eivind.

          • Proprietary software lends itself to the dubious practice of buying the competition in order to shut them down. If you can't compete, and you have enough money, you can in many cases legally put the competition out of business.

            In theory, no company would do this to the better of two products, but in practice it works out differently. The company I work for has been on a buying binge for the last 10 years. They now own almost all of the products in several vertical markets. That is, all except the clear
            • Lets put it another way, you don't buy competition and put them out of business. You buy a hard working staff who produced a quality product and provided excellent customer support and destroyed their careers for being to competitive, that'll teach those employees at other companies who are better than your employees. You punished customers who dared to invest in alternate products by destroying their investment, that'll teach those customers who dare to buy competing companies products.

              Generally when I h

        • Support contracts are most certainly the bread and butter of closed-source and hardware companies too. IBM's entire business model has been based on that for decades. Hell, not that long ago, they wouldn't actually SELL you ANYTHING--even the hardware was effectively packaged as an ongoing support contract. Look at SUN's business model today. They sell hardware and give away software, but the money is all in the support services.
      • by Belacgod (1103921)
        Actually, for the PHB it makes sense. If there's a support contract and the support craps out, sure the product fails but the PHB has his ass covered, since it was demonstrably not his fault. Without a support contract, failure may be less likely but is more likely to come down on his head.
    • by cromar (1103585)
      There must be something that happens to make a corporation and those who make it up become corrupt. All the bureaucracy? Or maybe the money does it...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sYkSh0n3 (722238)
        I think a lot of it has to do with going public. Instead of worrying about making a good product and turning a profit, they have to worry about INCREASING profit. It can never be good enough. They have to constantly make more and more money to keep the stockholders happy. Eventually, they have to screw the customer for the sake of the stockholder.
  • So a company made promises regarding a product right before they sold. Are the people who made those promises to you still in charge of the product? Did they cash out and move on to another venture? I'm sorry for your loss, but you should put some effort into learning what really happened. You have posted exactly what I am posted, which is opinion. I don't feel this is news worthy.
    • Breach. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iknownuttin (1099999)
      So a company made promises regarding a product right before they sold.

      It looked to me that they signed a contract. Therefore, wouldn't it be breach of contract and be actionable in court?

      • by quanticle (843097)

        It looked to me that they signed a contract. Therefore, wouldn't it be breach of contract and be actionable in court?

        Nope. From the article:

        "Them's the breaks," as they say: the support contracts never guaranteed upgrades.

        It looks to me like they never got the upgrade promise in writing, and now they're whining that Google is failing to acknowledge a verbal promise made by the old dev. team. To which I say, "So what?" Isn't the first rule of corporate dealings, "Get it in writing or don't get it a

        • To which I say, "So what?" Isn't the first rule of corporate dealings, "Get it in writing or don't get it at all?"
          And its having this attitude that lets companies like Google get away with it. Around these parts if someone promises something verbally, not only is it enforceable in court, its considered a lie and bad character to then go back on the promise. Much like Google has in this case.
          • by quanticle (843097)

            Around these parts if someone promises something verbally, not only is it enforceable in court, its considered a lie and bad character to then go back on the promise.

            It is indeed bad character on Google's part to go back on a verbal agreement like this. However, to get court enforcement for an agreement like this, you have to have something to backup your hearsay evidence. Saying, "But they said they would have an upgrade," isn't enough. If Ars can produce an e-mail, or a letter, or even a recorded pr

            • by Night Goat (18437) *
              The United States enforces verbal agreements. However, it's tough to prove that there was a verbal agreement, so it's best to go with a written one. I don't have a link for this to prove it, but I learned that this was the case in a business law class I took in high school.
        • by SeaFox (739806)

          It looks to me like they never got the upgrade promise in writing, and now they're whining that Google is failing to acknowledge a verbal promise made by the old dev. team. To which I say, "So what?" Isn't the first rule of corporate dealings, "Get it in writing or don't get it at all?"

          Isn't this exactly the same as Microsoft's Software Assurance troubles? All those companies bought contracts for upgrades for their software for a set period of time, then Microsoft never actually released any new products, t

          • by quanticle (843097)

            In that case, the upgrade was promised in writing, and shipped as promised. Because there weren't any specifications on the the quality of the upgrade, Microsoft was free to sacrifice quality to get the upgrade out the door. Besides, Software Assurance was supposed to be more like insurance than a contract. If Microsoft released an upgrade during the contract, then you got the upgrade for free (or reduced cost, I'm not sure). But I don't think there was any clause stating that Microsoft had to release a

    • by uglydog (944971) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:51AM (#20926683)
      I don't think the original company management ever planned on releasing an upgrade.

      Here's a news flash: when it takes 2.5 years to get an upgrade out that was due shortly after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, it's already effectively "discontinued."
      I think what happened is that Urchin promised to deliver the upgrade "when the Red Sox won the World Series". Who could have seen that coming?
    • by pintpusher (854001) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @11:00AM (#20926827) Journal

      Are the people who made those promises to you still in charge of the product?
      In theory this is irrelevant. The other side of the "corporate" coin -- that is, the side that doesn't involved shielding everyone involved from being liable for being jerks -- is that it, the corporation, persists beyond the tenure of its employees, officers, etc. Promises made by people on behalf of the corporation (or other business structure) are still binding on that corporation after those people leave. At least that's the theory. Of course now-a-days corps can do whatever they "want" with little or no repercussion.
      • by Rallion (711805)
        Well, I think there's a bit of a practical problem, there. If all the old people are replaced with new people, and there's no actual record of what promises were made, then...what do you do? What can you do? You can either do whatever somebody else tells you you're supposed to, or you can do whatever all the documents tell you to do.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pintpusher (854001)
          Sure its a practical problem, especially with smaller organizations where your scenario is more likely. But that doesn't absolve an organization from its responsibilities. And its also the purpose of things like contracts.

          Regardless, if the organization fails to perform its contractual obligations, then there are methods for dealing with that. It is the responsibility of the organization to keep track of its obligations and it is the customer's responsibility to be prepared to deal with an organization tha
  • Everyone who forked over for upgrades via a support contract never got them, even though things weren't supposed to have changed.
    In summary: hey got "forked-over" after forking over.
    • > "In summary: hey got "forked-over" after forking over."

      Of course, if it were OSS, it could just be forked ...

      Anyone got a link to the complete specs of what their log analysis tool does?

  • ... and in the meantime I can really recommend Sawmill which I finde quite loveable as a log processor. [sawmill.net]
    • ... and in the meantime I can really recommend Sawmill which I finde quite loveable as a log processor.
      What a letdown. I thought that link was going to lead me to something entirely different [timberking.com]. So much for the semantic web, eh?
  • Buyouts (Score:5, Informative)

    by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:51AM (#20926677)
    Isn't this just what happens about 50% of the time with company buyouts in tech? It seems like either you're buying them because you want their technology for yourself, or you're trying to eliminate a competitor. (Very rarely some holding company may actually just want to own a piece of the action and make a profit from your hard work). In either case though, the purchasing company doesn't give a crap about the viability of the company they're buying. I wouldn't say this is just google, I'd say this is the way most tech companies with money to spend handle buyouts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Another reason is that the buyer wants to get the customer base, so they can then slow down and phase out the earlier product and offer an 'upgrade' to their main product. Buying a company for this reason can be cheaper than advertising, etc, to get new customers.
    • by mpapet (761907)
      Parent is right on only the percentage is closer to 90. Most acquisitions are destroyed by the "not invented here" mentality and soul-sucking turf battles.

      Ars is abusing their publishing privilege by whining about something that didn't go their way. Hardly news.
      • Ars is abusing their publishing privilege by [informing people that Google makes promises and then doesn't keep them]. Hardly news.
        And it isn't it sad that this is hardly news?
    • by cnettel (836611)
      Google also seems to have a real policy of not keeping external productified versions of technology they want for their internal use.
  • Uncertainty (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beavis88 (25983) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:52AM (#20926701)
    What companies like Google don't realize is that it's the uncertainty that kills customers. Most of us won't really care if you're going to buy Urchin, move all the best pieces to Google Analytics, and then kill it off - just tell us what the fuck you are doing so we can plan accordingly. Dicking people around by pretending to support what you know will be a dead product is a good way to get people to hold grudges against you.
    • > "What companies like Google don't realize is that it's the uncertainty that kills customers. Most of us won't really care if you're going to buy Urchin, move all the best pieces to Google Analytics, and then kill it off - just tell us what the fuck you are doing so we can plan accordingly. Dicking people around by pretending to support what you know will be a dead product is a good way to get people to hold grudges against you."

      You must be new here; it worked for Microsoft ...

      In Soviet Googlestan,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lymond01 (314120)
      What companies like Google don't realize is that it's the uncertainty that kills customers.

      This.

      Not that Google doesn't realize this, but they dropped the ball in this case. We have a few major systems being rolled out at the University, and the faculty web tools have sporadic uptimes. Fastest way to have faculty NOT use your tools? Have the system be down just ONCE when they want to use it. "It never works!" is what you'll get and they'll do it themselves from there on out.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Typoboy (61087) *
        That is the bane of my web-app existence. It's to the point where I try to be careful who I ask to test what at what time, because if it is scary enough, they won't come back.
    • I'm not sure I'd limit it to "companies like", pushing the limits of what the law will permit in terms of consumer deception, even fraud, is broad and pervasive throughout the commercial sector. About all you can do is make noise and file a suit. Noise, lately, has been very effective if you can get enough interest in it. It shouldn't be very hard to write a piece equating their behavior here to a very reasonable lack of confidence in google checkout (a product Google cares very much about). If they're untr
    • What companies like Google don't realize is that it's the uncertainty that kills customers.

      What you don't realize is that, from Google's perspective, you're not the customer.

      Google wants to data-mine the Web to better sell ads. Convincing sites to run their analytics through Google's hosted solution gives them a gold mine of data to use for this purpose.

      In other words, the stats software is just bait that they can use to get people to provide data they can use to better serve their real customers --

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        What you don't realize is that, from Google's perspective, you're not the customer
        Well, these Urchin users paid for support contracts and for upgrades. I think I'm willing to grant them "customer" status.

        The problem is, these customers did not get what they paid for, and that is why they are upset. I can't say that I blame them.

        Wouldn't you be mad if you paid for something and didn't get it, or if the company half-assed their commitments?
    • by fm6 (162816)
      You're assuming that killing off Urchin was the official game plan. More likely, the plan was to continue running it, gradually merging it into Google Analytics. But inept management and corporate politics prevented that from happening.
  • It would be an Anenome...
    • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @11:01AM (#20926851) Homepage
      >> It would be an Anenome (sic) ...

      A sea urchin is an Echinoderm, like starfish and sea cucumbers.
      An anemone is a Cnidaria, like coral and jelly fish.

      Imagine obligatory wiki links here.

      jfs

      • So, in other words, I should clam up about what I don't fathom?
        • Just don't try to mussel into the joke just for the halibut, fishing for +1 Funny, or you'll end up get "dock"ed karma.
        • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @12:32PM (#20928251)
          Look, if you're gonna make fish puns, just quote the whole song and be done with it.

          It was April the 41st, being a quadruple leap year
          I was driving in downtown Atlantis
          My Barracuda was in the shop, so I was in a rented Stingray, and it was overheating
          So I pulled into a Shell station They said I'd blown a seal
          I said, "Fix the damn thing and leave my private life out of it, okay pal?"

          While they were doing that I walked over to a place called the oyster bar -- a real dive
          But I knew the owner, he used to play for the Dolphins
          I said, "Hi, Gil!!!"
          You hafta yell, he's hard of herring

          CHORUS:
          Think I had a wet dream Cruisin' through the Gulf Stream Oooh-ooh-ooh-ooh Wet dream...

          Gil was also down on his luck
          Fact is, he was barely keeping his head below water
          I gullied up to the sandbar He poured the usual
          Rusty snail, hold the grunion, shaken, not stirred
          With a peanut butter and jellyfish sandwich on the side -- heavy on the mako
          I slipped him a fin -- on porpoise I was feeling good
          I even dropped a sand dollar in the box for Jerry's Squids -- for the halibut

          Well, the place was crowded We were packed in like sardines
          They were all there to listen to the big band sounds of Tommy Dorsal -- what sole
          Tommy was rockin' the place with a very popular tuna -- "Salmon Chanted Evening"
          And the stage was surrounded by screaming groupers
          Probably there to see the bass player

          One of them was this cute little yellowtail
          And she's giving ME the eye
          So I figure, this is my chance for a little fun
          You know -- a piece of Pisces

          But she said things I just couldn't fathom
          She was too deep, and seemed to be under a lot of pressure
          Boy, could she drink
          She drank like a... she drank A LOT...
          I said, "What's your sign?" She said, "Aquarium" I said, "GREAT!!! Let's get tanked!"

          I invited her up to my place for a little midnight bait
          I said, "C'mon baby, it'll only take a few minnows"
          She threw me that same old line
          "Not tonight -- I got a haddock"

          And she wasn't kiddin' either, 'cuz in came the biggest, meanest looking haddock I'd ever seen come down the pike
          He was covered with mussels
          He came over to me, he said, "Listen shrimp -- don't you come trolling around here"
          What a crab This guy was steamed -- I could see the anchor in his eyes

          I turned to him, I said, "Abalone -- You're just being shellfish"
          Well, I knew it was going to be trouble, and so did Gil, 'cuz he was already on the phone to the cods
          The haddock hits me with a sucker punch
          I catch him with a left hook He eels over
          It was a fluke, but there he was, lying on the deck, flat as a mackerel
          Kelpless

          I said, "Forget the cods, Gil, this guy's gonna need a sturgeon"
          Well, the yellowtail was impressed with the way I landed her boyfriend
          She came over to me, she said, "Hey big boy, you're really a game fish"
          "What's your name?"
          I said, "Marlin"

          Well from then on, we had a whale of a time
          I took her to dinner
          I took her to dance
          I bought her a bouquet of flounders
          And then I went home with her
          And what did I get for my trouble?
          A case of the clams

          Your comment has too few characters per line (currently 29.1).Your comment has too few characters per line (currently 30.1)
          • Look, if you're gonna make fish puns, just quote the whole song and be done with it.

            You got me. It is Trawl Tuesday after all...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by threaded (89367)
      I thought an Urchin was the old name for a Hedgehog, and that Sea Urchins are so named because they have lots of things sticking out of them, looking somewhat similar, if you sort of squint sideways with your head cocked to one side.
  • FOSS losers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Generic Guy (678542) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:54AM (#20926731)

    It makes one wonder how many of these companies eschewed open-source solutions, in favor of expensive "supported" software.

    Hopefully enough of these examples will eventually reach the tipping point where PHBs will finally begin to wonder what exactly they're getting for their money.

    • by p0tat03 (985078)

      Wait... So the company that doesn't want to worry about its own software, and therefore buys a support contract, will now be benefited by the "fix it yourself" nature of FOSS? I know the power of FOSS is being able to go into the code and alter/fix things that you don't like - but considering this company clearly doesn't want to have its own little team of coders doing something like that (hence buying the contract), what's the point?

      More likely a rash of unsupportive developers will simply create room fo

      • The point is that FOSS does not leave you completely dependent on a single supplier: you can buy support and enhancements elsewhere. If there are lots of unsatisfied users, there is likely to be a fork.

        Suppose Urchin had been FOSS. It would have been forked by now, and the devs of the forked version would be offering support.
    • by Intron (870560)
      "supported" and "open-source" are independent. The third independent variable is "being actively developed" which is the missing ingredient with Urchin. Since Ars provides zero details about the two major "issues" and is mostly complaining about not getting upgrades, I'm guessing that they were not bugs but new features that they wanted.
    • It makes one wonder how many of these companies eschewed open-source solutions, in favor of expensive "supported" software. Hopefully enough of these examples will eventually reach the tipping point where PHBs will finally begin to wonder what exactly they're getting for their money.

      You don't understand why companies prefer commercial solutions.

      If I buy services from a company and they fail to deliver, I have choices. Like suing them (example: breach of contract) and recovering damages. I can't do t

      • by Synn (6288)
        If I buy services from a company and they fail to deliver, I have choices. Like suing them (example: breach of contract) and recovering damages.

        I'd love to see examples where this has actually happened. Commercial software companies fail to deliver at the time. It's routine. And yet it's always the admins and the users in the company that bought it that end up having to "pay" for it.
        • That's because those wonderful EULAs make it impossible to sue the software developers. The parent's post is an example of flawed, uninformed PHB thinking.
      • If I buy services from a company and they fail to deliver, I have choices. Like suing them (example: breach of contract) and recovering damages.

        Awesome.

        So riddle me this, batman. Users buy Urchin and also purchase a contract for support and upgrades. Urchin gets bought by Google, who breaches that contract by not releasing an upgrade, and failing to deliver support. Reminder: CUSTOMERS PAID FOR BOTH OF THEM!

        Now, how come these customers aren't able to get any relief from the courts? How come their only recourse is to bitch about the problem on Slashdot?

        I think that you'll find that in the Real World, if you pay for software/services in order t

  • ... you also couldn't find anyone from Urchin to arrange for a new support contract. So they weren't continuing to take your money and not provide suppport -- they wouldn't even take your money.
  • Here's the lowdown. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fireye (415617) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @10:57AM (#20926789)
    Google purchased Urchin outright.

    Google/Urchin provided support for a short while, and all was good. Then, Google/Urchin decided to outsource ALL support requests except major bugs. They "trained" authorized support personel from various companies, which are now listed under their resellers page. But, a good percentage of those people know jack about the inner working of Urchin. I feel sorry for them, honestly, because I doubt they were trained properly and there's very little solid documentation.

    Urchin is EXTREMELY poorly documented. Want to know how to create your own report inside a profile? It's easy! Now, do you want to analyze some metric in a different way than Urchin does by default? Wow. Good luck. datamap.dm, I hardly knew thee. I still don't know it well, because there's very little documentation and zilch for examples about how the integral parts of the program work. Want to change how some .tpl (report templates) look or present information? Good luck, there is exactly zero documentation about it. Hell, the "support" personel I worked with didn't even know those files existed, or what they did.

    So yeah, Google is certainly at fault somewhat, but a lot of the issues people have could have been resolved even prior to the acquirement of Urchin! Documentation will save us, or in it's absence damn us.

    Another topic is that Urchin currently has two outstanding LARGE vulnerabilities, as published by US CERT. Google/Urchin was notified back in June or July about these security holes. They claimed a fix was in the works. It's now OCTOBER and they're totally silent on the issue. My support requests (directed directly at google, not at one of their support contractors) go unanswered. There hasn't been an update to the program in years. Google/Urchin is COMPLETELY silent about the Urchin standalone product.

    I'm extremely happy that this is getting some public attention, because it bugs the bejeezus out of serious Urchin users.
    • Urchin.com had at one time extensive online docs, including a very good searchable knowledge base. IIRC most of these docs vanished shortly after the acquisition.

      I too am happy this is getting some attention, as management needs to be reminded from time to time that no company is infallible. Even Google.
    • Then, Google/Urchin decided to outsource ALL support requests except major bugs.

      OK, how do I request a major bug?

  • Sue! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbrandv (96371)
    I say go after the deep pockets of Google, demand a jury trial, profit! When they bought the company they also have to take on their customer support. I suspect that a jury would agree.
  • by speaker of the truth (1112181) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @11:17AM (#20927045)
    Come on, if Microsoft did this we'd be yelling loudly how bad they were.
    • When Microsoft consistently buys companies with good products, improves them and releases them free, come tell me how they're the same level as Google. As it stands now, Google bought a company with a couple of products, built one of the products up and turned it into a free service with a huge following while not spending a lot of resources on the other product. The ignoring of the product was evil, the building up of google analytics was good, we come out with overall neutral.
      • As it stands now, Google bought a company with a couple of products, built one of the products up and turned it into a free service with a huge following while not spending a lot of resources on the other product. The ignoring of the product was evil, the building up of google analytics was good, we come out with overall neutral.

        So then, if I pat you on the head and kick your friend in the nuts, I am neutral and not evil, right? I am starting to get a little sick of Google getting a free pass. And to
  • by aggles (775392)
    It is sad that Urchin (the product) is all but dead, but what did you expect? Google bought a Web analytics product to help sell ad-words. Its hosted version is free, has been much updated and is well worth the price you pay. Google is not deeply in the product business, except for their search engine appliance. It takes a huge infrastructure to compete with the leaders of Web analytics products and services, such as Omniture, WebTrends, Coremetrics, Visual Sciences and Unica. Its not in Google's busin
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @11:37AM (#20927395)
    $ echo "127.0.0.1 googleanalytics.com" >> /etc/hosts
    $ echo "127.0.0.1 www.googleanalytics.com" >> /etc/hosts


    Does the trick every time .....
    • Not Every Time (Score:3, Informative)

      Many webmasters host urchin.js locally to speed up page load times. Google does not recommend this practice [google.com], but they also do not forbid it. I don't particularly feel like trawling through urchin.js, but a quick skim doesn't seem to have that file submitting to google-analytics.com. It seems to go, instead, to analytics.corp.google.com.

      At any rate, I think that you'll find that the google analytics hostname is www.google-analytics.com (with a hyphen). I also think that the NoScript firefox plugin will p
  • Gone wrong? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hhlost (757118)
    Saying that the acquisition went "terribly wrong" assumes that Google's true intention was to continue with support and updates as they supposedly said. Just like saying that the Bush Administration failed in Iraq assumes that the true intention was to bring peace, stability and democracy to that country.
  • I don't know about everyone else but I specifically block these scripts with NoScript. Who needs them? Certainly not the users.
  • Not a new story (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maggard (5579) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @11:57AM (#20927651) Homepage Journal

    Anyone remember Dodgeball.com [dodgeball.com]? Google bought 'em when they were hot, everyone expected great things, check out their founder's resignation letter [flickr.com].

    Google is competitive, outside and inside. If a product doesn't have a strong voice, strong support, it'll get starved. There are lots of examples of this, where Google (or Yahoo or any other company) buys a smaller company and it's products just kinda evaporate.

    Sometimes it is truly a mismatch in cultures. Other times the folks coming in get sucked into 'more interesting' projects and their original ones languish. Once in a while the goal of buying the company was to shut it down, or at least to deny it's benefits to a competitor.

    Whatever the case whenever a buyout happens smart folks immediately put together transition plans, if only contingency ones.

    In my career I've had CA buy and rape/pillage/burn (not always in that order!) any number of products we've depended upon. Yahoo! also has a record of ingesting, partially digesting, then eventually burping up a barely recognizable (and rarely for the better) version of the original service. Same for Amazon - anyone else recall Firefly, PlanetAll, A9 with street-views, etc.?

    Urchin is just one more example of why committing to a product or service that isn't it's owner's primary interest is a risky gamble. Never assume the status quo; companies & priorities change and that's how inattentive customers get caught out.

  • by naasking (94116) <naasking@gmail.c3.1415926om minus pi> on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @12:22PM (#20928095) Homepage
    For those companies that use Urchin, note that there is a potential security vulnerability that I came across on a copmany's ordering page just a few days ago. The company, who shall remain nameless, has since taken my suggestion and closed the security hole, but I don't know how many more ordering screens use Urchin in the same way.

    The problem is thus:

    1. The ordering screen where you enter your VISA card number is loaded over https
    2. The ordering screen includes the urchin.js [google-analytics.com] script file, but this file is loaded over unsecured http
    3. This means that urchin.js could be replaced in transit with another script which could steal your personal info by, for instance, changing the form you are submitting to point to another server.

    In this case, the Firefox "lock" icon displays an error: "Warning: Contains unauthenticated content". Unfortunately, this is very easy to miss. I only spotted it because I use the Petname Toolbar [mozilla.org], which prevents phishing and spoofing. The toolbar would not let me set a petname for this site, because the unsecured content could literally change anything on the page, so it wasn't safe. If you don't already have the Petname Toolbar installed, I highly recommend that you install it.

    Urchin could close this hole if they allowed urchin.js to be loaded over https, but the file isn't available over a secured link. To anyone using urchin.js, make sure you don't include that file on your secured pages.

    What's even more disheartening, is that this site was verified as "hacker safe" by ScanAlert [scanalert.com]; missing such an obvious hole really decreases my confidence in their testing methods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Isn't it available via https://ssl.google-analytics.com/urchin.js [google-analytics.com]
      • by naasking (94116)
        Excellent! To anyone else still browsing, the urchin.js is available over https after all [google-analytics.com]. Thanks AC!

        A better idea would be to simply copy the js file to your local server; that way, clients would load the file over the https connection they already established to your server, and your page won't break if Google Analytics upgrade the contents of the file.
        • by Software (179033)
          Yes, but then your site won't get any updates to urchin.js (though maybe this is good after all?). I think Google should add something like this to their non-SSL urchin.js:

          <script type="text/javascript">

          if (window.location.href.substring(0, 5) == 'https')
          {
          alert("Please ask the webmaster to change urchin.js to load via HTTPS!");
          }

          </script>
          Though I haven't actually tried this, I think it should work.
          • by Bronster (13157)
            Except the injected "bad" urchin.js would of course not contain this, hence defeating the whole point...
  • Standard Fare (Score:3, Informative)

    by KillerCow (213458) on Wednesday October 10, 2007 @12:27PM (#20928169)
    The same thing happened to dodgeball [flickr.com] when they were bought. Google buys companies for the people, not the product.
  • No upgrades. No support.
  • Google has been showing, again and again, that it has become an ordinary big corporate company. It is as efficient as an average corporation. It is managed as well as any big business. It can be trusted as much as you trust any big corporation. There is nothing special about it anymore.

    So, do you really want them to have any of your personal information? Your email? Your weblog? Anything you care about?

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik

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