Will Omniture do for Adobe what analytics failed to do for Microsoft, Yahoo?

Two years ago, as Betanews reported at the time, a security engineer testing Adobe's CS3 Web content creation suite for Mac discovered to his surprise that the code it was generating sent data over a network back to a very odd address. It was masked to look like a local network address, with the usual "192.168" prefix, but it used a capital "O" instead of a zero. As it turned out, the address was registered to Omniture, a Web analytics company with which Adobe was apparently doing some interesting business.

Only after the engineer publicly discussed his discovery did Adobe come clean about the fact that yes, CS3 and Flex-based applications were transmitting data back to an analytics company. "Omniture is a client-based analytics platform that uses information stored in both JavaScript variables and the user's cookie to track a user's progress through a site, giving business insight into how to create better user experiences," the company's admission read.

The need for a reliable system to track user behavior through a complex application (and Flash/Flex is certainly more complex than ordinary HTML) seems to have become an obsession among platform developers. But relatively little has come from platform makers' efforts except headlines, including Microsoft's colossal May 2007 Razorfish purchase, followed by Yahoo's September 2007 acquisition of analytics tools producer BlueLithium. Perhaps Google's huge merger with ad tools leader DoubleClick has been the only major effort to bear fruit, despite having come under intense scrutiny from trade regulators worldwide.

But besides the understandable skepticism from users regarding whether they actually want their behavior observed and analyzed, even by an impartial software device, there continues to be considerable doubt among Web publishers everywhere over the accuracy and validity of analytics data in general. In an October 2006 informal study pitting Omniture's SiteCatalyst commercial analytics package versus the free Google Analytics service, for instance, SEO expert Bart Gibby discovered that the Omniture tool was capable of recording fewer visits for a Web site for a given day than unique visitors for that day -- something that's logically impossible.

Since it appears Adobe and Omniture have been closely sharing data and services for years, one may wonder why the two companies couldn't simply continue their partnership, rather than come together in a $1.8 billion acquisition deal. But as financial analysts this morning interpret the news from a private conference including with Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, Omniture was getting into the content creation business for itself, and Adobe was straying into analytics (with Omniture's help). As a result, their two platforms were being seen as overlapping rather than converging; and both Web site developers and Web ad developers would prefer a single, holistic platform that covered rich content creation up front, and behavioral analysis on the back end. And they preferred to buy this platform from only one vendor, not two.

PaidContent.org quotes Omniture CEO Josh James as saying that this will enable developers to begin planning their sites around tracking, rather than tacking tracking abilities on at the end of the creative cycle. "When you introduce content, you need to embed optimization and tracking at the beginning of the creative process," James said. "That's the basis of this relationship."

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