Yes, we know where you click now

A new technology aimed at monitoring the way we surf is set to bring TV-style rating wars to the internet

Web surfers who value their privacy will have to contend with a new measurement system launched in the UK last week that aims to make internet use as easy to track as TV viewing.

The groundbreaking system, which not only monitors which sites people are going to and how often, also tracks who is visiting and how they've got there. The company behind it claims it will be able to measure over 90 per cent of the world's internet audience in more than 30 countries by the end of next year.

The system has been developed by ACNielsen eRatings.com, which is 80 per cent owned by research giant ACNielsen and 20 per cent owned by NetRatings, a Silicon Valley start-up. NetRatings has developed an application, known as Insight, which allows the detailed tracking the new system guarantees.

Insight can be run on an everyday PC and tracks every click made by the user to gather a diverse selection of information which is then relayed back to the system's control centre in California via the net. As well as monitoring which sites are visited, it also gathers information on which advertising (if any) has been viewed, and whether the surfer conducted a commercial transaction via the web. "It's a very powerful piece of proprietary technology which we believe will make us the world leader in on-line traffic measurement," says Bill Pulver, president of ACNielsen eRatings.com.

The approach is similar to the panel-based research used by TV audience measurement systems around the world - such as Barb in the UK - although on a much larger scale. A selection of internet users has been recruited to mirror the profile of the total number of surfers in each country. Each panelist is asked to install the Insight software on their computer, and the program tracks their surfing in real time.

"A number of (other) measurement techniques have been developed," Pulver admits. Some are "site-centric" - logging hits, but these are unable to distinguish between people visiting a site for the first time and those who return many times. Other systems, meanwhile, have been unable to incorporate demographic details. But, Pulver adds: "It is possible for different visitors to a single internet site to view different banner ads depending on whether they have visited that site before. Until now it has not been possible for measurement systems to distinguish between these."

The relevance of Insight is that currently, the vast majority of websites fall into one of two models - advertising and promotional, or e-commerce. Advertising is already a major business with online advertising spend expected to total $24bn by 2003, one estimate suggests. E-commerce, meanwhile, is set for massive growth - estimates for its value in two years' time range from a modest trillion dollars to between two and three trillion.

"Both [advertising and e-commerce] require an understanding of demographics, and tracking of often-common elements - including number of views, and number of transactions," Pulver explains. "The only way to track both is from the panel perspective." As a result, he is confident Insight will become the industry standard for measuring internet use.

ACNielsen eRatings.com was launched last year in the US where 50,000 internet surfers are now monitored daily, round-the-clock. The UK panel involves 9,000 people. The aim is to grow the survey worldwide from the current level of 90,000 people in seven countries to 250,000 people in more than 30 countries by the end of 2001. If it can meet this target, ACNielsen eRatings.com will be able to provide information covering 90 per cent of world internet use, Pulver claims. Worldwide, this will cost the company some $50m in investment over two years.

Latest figures taken from Insight data from the US and preliminary data gleaned by ACNeilsen eRatings.com in the UK during February show some intriguing differences and similarities between the two markets. In the US, 130 million people are now on the net; the UK figure is 16.5 million. In the US, the average surfing session lasts 30 minutes - the same as in the UK, but American surfers are likely to have more sessions a month - 18 compared with the UK's 12.

The busiest times for net use in the US (where ACNielsen eRatings.com monitors both home surfing and office-based internet use) is 7pm midweek - typically, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Lunchtimes are also busy. Luckily for those who value their privacy, the system is not yet able to distinguish between individuals' net use for professional and personal use - at least, not yet.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing