Tales Out of School I'm not telling tales out of school when I share with you a free resource that ranks websites based on a sample of surfers who elect to install a toolbar from Amazon-owned Alexa.At Alexa.com
you can key in any URL you like and, if it's in the top 100,000 sites,
get all sorts of details about traffic, links to the site and other
sites visited by those who visit the target site.It's a fascinating
way to waste some time.
Two things drew me to Alexa this week.First, while I was looking at
the limited number of online articles about the update of the Geospatial One-Stop
portal, I started wondering how many people had a chance to look at it
since its "soft" launch
on July 18.Later in the week, I received an e-mail about NASA's World Wind, which prompted
me to wonder what sort of traffic the "we did it before Google Earth"
website attracted.This is the kind of information Alexa can help you
Getting Your Bearings
To get a feel for Alexa, I started with some big websites.Yahoo.com
ranks number one on Alexa.(Details on how that number is calculated
Its reach, roughly how many of 1 million surfers visit it, tops
300,000.Now, www.yahoo.com shares
its domain with several components: mail.yahoo.com and maps.yahoo.com,
to name two.Alexa does not offer statistics for those components, but
does offer what percentage of visitors head to that component.Yahoo
Mail draws 43%, while Yahoo Maps draws less than 1%.
Let's stay with portals for a moment.Virtual Earth is part of www.msn.com, Microsoft's portal, which
is ranked number two.Virtual Earth, virtualearth.msn.com is not
noted in the listing of "where people go" on the portal.It may be too
new to show up as a percentage of MSN traffic.Interestingly, MapPoint.msn.com isn't listed
either.68% of visitors, however, go to Hotmail.
Google Maps is part of the www.google.com
domain, ranked number three.What percent of traffic goes to Google
Maps? One percent.Eighty percent go to http://www.google.com, the search part
Despite the mapping "newcomers" above, MapQuest ranks number 52 with a
reach of 11,000.Wow.
Exploring Geospatial Exploration Websites Geodata.gov, also known as the
Geospatial One-Stop or the GOS Portal, is ranked
391,124.That's down from 55,202 three months ago.The reach (how many
people out of a million visit the site) is two (based on a three month
average).Just 53 other websites link to the GOS portal.Since GOS2 is
part of the http://www.geodata.gov domain, I learned that 81% of visitors go
to geodata.gov and 19% to gos2.geodata.gov.That's good; people are
exploring the new portal!
NASA's World Wind website/app is part of NASA's website (rank 370).
About four percent of traffic heads
to the section of the website that holds World Wind.I'm not really
sure what other resources are in that corner of the site called
arc.nasa.gov.I'm also not sure how an application like World Wind (you
download and install it, much like Google Earth) counts in Alexa's
rankings since it does not operate in a browser.
These are "exploration" types of websites.How does venerable National
Geographic fare? It ranks 1,353 and its MapMachine draws three
percent of visitors.
While Alexa offers up all sorts of numbers and rankings, it doesn't
address how these websites got to where they did.Some of it is simply
being first to market.I suspect MapQuest has that advantage.Some of
it is marketing: Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have far larger marketing
budgets than the Department of Interior and NASA.Some is user
expectation: "How could the government possibly have a cooler mapping
site than Google?" Or "Government websites are complicated!"
Further, it's worth reading the fine
print on Alexa, which notes that the system is not perfect, by any
means.The toolbar used to capture visitor data is only supported on
Internet Explorer, which the site notes, will skew results.
Are explorations like this valuable? Alexa is valuable for comparing
apples to apples sorts of sites.Still, as reflected in the discussions
of the portal players above, those sorts of sites can be hard to find
these days.Alexa is also valuable in putting the sites we as
geospatial professional find critical to our work in the context of the
wider Web.If, say, Google Maps is huge in "our world" its valuable to
recall that it draws just one percent of visitors to Google itself.
If you want some history on ranking of GIS websites, there's an archive from Retail
Profit Management (RPM) of data from 1998-2001.
Finally, according to Alexa, http://www.DirectionsMag.com is the highest rated geospatial magazine, eclipsing any other online magazine by more than 16,000 ranking points.At last look Directions ranked 44,308.