Google’s real-time analytics, and why it gives it away

The free Google Analytics has added a real-time view which is great fun to watch:


Aside from distracting bloggers, is there much value to real-time analytics? I’m not sure there is much advantage but it does demo well.

Why does Google invest so much in giving away analytics? Simple: it gets your data too. The amount of data Google receives on our web activities is breathtaking.

Here is something that annoys me. Perform a Google search, hover your mouse over a link, and note that visually it looks as if you have a direct link to the result. Even the text in the IE status bar says that you have


The truth though: the link is actually to a Google site, in this case:

This is not for your benefit! In fact, it slows down your browsing, since you now have to wait for two sites to respond, first Google and then the actual destination. Google does this though because it wants to know exactly what you clicked on its search page. I also regard the way the status bar is faked as deceptive, as well as being a weakness in Internet Explorer – this is meant to show you what the hyperlink actually targets.

Microsoft’s Bing does not do this as far as I can tell, so if you want to get to your searched destinations faster, do not use Google. Unfortunately (from this perspective) Google’s search algorithms are rather quick so you may lose as much as you gain.