Digital analytics (history and evolution)

Digital analytics (history and evolution)

When we talk about digital analytics, we refer to the tool that studies the activity within one or several websites, focusing mainly on visitor behaviour. However, to make good use of this tool, we must consider its origins and how it has evolved over the years.

1- Arrival of the Internet in 1990

Undoubtedly one of the foundations of digital analytics is the Internet, whose origins date back to 1958 thanks to the United States military forces and their ARPA project to deal with possible nuclear attacks by preventing failures in communication networks.

It was not until 1971 that the first e-mail was invented and sent; in 1988, the first applications were created that used the internet to communicate, the first chat and the first virus in history called the Morris worm appeared, and the first search engine (worthy of the name) called Archie (short for Archives) was developed.

In 1990, in Switzerland, a team led by Tim Berners-Lee decided to work collaboratively with linked documents accessed through a computer network. To achieve this, they relied on the TCP/IP protocol (born out of the ARPA project), and to be able to access all the documents with just one click on the hypertexts, they used the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

For this collaborative work, they used a markup language better known by its acronym (HTML) and used the first server capable of supporting such technology, the first FTP and a very rudimentary web browser called (WorldWideWeb) launching the first web page which today can still be accessed by clicking here.

First website created at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee
First website created at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee

2- The first web analytics tool

With Tim Berners-Lee‘s model of web pages, which consisted of documents linked to other documents in the same network, many people were interested in this system of collaboration, both in accessing these sources of information and sharing information on them.

In the beginning, this system was only used by universities, scientific departments and laboratories. Still, as time went by, its use became more widespread, which generated new needs in these documents, such as incorporating images and more dynamic behaviour. In 1993 the company WebTrends made public what is now considered to be the first commercial tool for data analysis on the web.

The WebTrends tool was limited to sorting the information extracted from the logs of web servers (it is worth noting that at that time, web pages basically consisted of text and images), this type of tool was designed to be used by computer scientists and only provided some very few metrics.

As time went by, some analytical tools were created, such as NetGenesis, or the pioneer in digital marketing for professionals in the sector, created in 1995, under the name of Analog.cx/, which was the first to provide complete and comprehensible reports (even for those who did not have in-depth knowledge of computers), which showed graphs that allowed trends and deviations to be observed.

3- Landing of Hit Counters in 1996

This is the year in which hit counters emerged, thanks to the boom in digital analytics tools, especially with the launch of Web-Counter. This was a small programme that allowed you to visualise the number of visits your website had received. It was also the year in which the “most important analytics companiesWebSideStory, Omniture and Accrue were born.

4- JavaScript in 1997

As the years progressed, web pages evolved, so interactions were generated that were not registered by the logs, such as dynamic content, visual effects, multimedia, etc.

To avoid all this loss of information, tools began to implement a collection method based on JavaScript. This method has proved to be so effective that it is still used today (even with Google Analytics).

The process is simple; JavaScript allows the user’s actions to be collected without the need to attend to the requests made by our server through a tracking code.

5- Google, eBay and Amazon

After the dot-com bubble, companies such as Google, eBay, and Amazon emerged and boosted the use of the Internet worldwide, which began its real insertion in society.

Furthermore, in the year 2000, the first social networks appeared, blogs were born, and the Internet took on special importance as a new form of communication.

6- WAA (Web Analytics Association)

Once the importance of the web as a new means of communication and sales had been established, it became essential to know how websites and the behaviour of their users worked. This became a business need in itself, so in 2004, the WAA (Web Analytics Association) was created, bringing together professionals from the sector to discuss the needs and concerns of the sector.

7- Google Analytics 2005

Urchin was the company that best managed the graphic and visual section of its reports, so in 2005 Google decided to buy it, launching Google Analytics, after a few tweaks to the usability and user interface.

8- Analytics on page

Heat maps, scroll interactions, etc. began to arrive with the new web analytics tools, the pioneer in this deeper analysis was ClickTale expanding the qualitative analysis.

The analysis processes for website optimisation became popular, which allowed Google Analytics to consolidate its position as the leading tool par excellence.

9- New interface

In 2011 Google Analytics is already the dominant tool in the analytics market. It then decides to add new features such as the multi-channel funnel, real-time reports, page load times, real-time reports, social network data and customisable panels. In addition, the multi-device era also began (mobile, tablet and desktop).

For 2013, Google Analytics incorporates even more features such as importing data from external sources, tracking traffic from IOS and Android applications, creating customisable metrics, sending data from any device connected to the internet and synchronising data on offline devices.

Digital analytics is advancing by leaps and bounds; there are more and more factors that take it into account, SEO, SEM, Inpage and Offpage, and so on.

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