Crosstown Traffic

Up until now, if you’ve used advanced Web techniques like AJAX or Flash to create interactivity on your site, you’ve been punished when it comes time to tally up your traffic. Even at this late date, most off-the-shelf tracking software remains ignorant of clicks that don’t involve simple HTML pageviews. Since your fancy Web 2.0 app doesn’t transfer HTML with every click, those clicks don’t get counted.

There are workarounds. Clunky at best and mostly proprietary, they’re seldom used by the third party agencies who audit the traffic claims of major sites (and thereby influence the rates those sites can charge advertisers). In other words, they don’t rate with the moneymen.

There have been efforts to emphasize other metrics, such as the amount of time a user spends on a site, but they haven’t amounted to much yet. At least not enough to free us from traffic woes when playing anywhere remotely near the bleeding edge.

It’s quite plain this state of affairs is holding these technologies, and the Web, back. Enough so that Adobe has apparently decided to take matters into its own hands, at great expense, by plunking down a king’s ransom to acquire Omniture, a major player in the business of counting site traffic.

With this purchase, Adobe clearly intends to construct a bully pulpit from which it can influence this state of affairs for its benefit, serving their deeply vested interest in Flash. Good for them.

So this begs a question.

Is anybody working on a solution for AJAX?

It would seem like the work currently underway on HTML5, a specification fittingly dubbed “Web Applications 1.0” at one point, provides a choice opportunity to establish some clear guidance on trackable AJAX events in Web apps for everyone involved, and help steer the ship forward.

I’ve been scanning the spec-in-progress, but haven’t yet seen anything that seems to fit the bill. It’s a big spec. I could easily be missing something. Maybe we can use the ping attribute? Perhaps it’s in how resource fetching is defined? I don’t know. But I’m sure minds more knowledgeable than mine have some ideas. Ideas that wouldn’t constitute a proprietary hack.

The major sites won’t budge until the auditors move. The auditors won’t move until the corporate coalitions make some decisions. The corporate coalitions are comprised of the owners of said major sites. Lather, rinse, repeat.

What’s needed now is a standards body to break this stalemate. Otherwise we remain locked into a stagnant scenario where no one wants to be the first mover, and the proprietary solutions pass us all by.