You might probably know that I am extensively using Alexa API on my blog to generate those monthly lists of popular sites. It should come as no surprise that I have gotten interested in the events related to Amazon vs. Statsaholic dispute which flooded news over the past several days.
To sort things out, I have come up with a brief chronology of events. Just the facts. The opinions will go to comments. ;-)
March 11, 2006 Ron Hornbaker launches Alexaholic
The website offers a more convenient interface to the same data that Alexa itself provides. Apparently Alexaholic didn’t use API to obtain the information, instead it hot-linked the images from Alexa. The reason? I can think of one. Alexa didn’t offer graphs API at that time.
April 11, 2006 Alexa compliments it in their blog
Traffic Graph Enhancements. Our enhancements may not be as cool as Alexaholic, but they are a significant improvement. We’ve extended the maximum time frame and fixed some minor annoyances.
March 19, 2007 Almost a year later, in a change of mood, Amazon forces Alexaholic domain name change. These are comments by Mike Arrington from Techcrunch:
Instead of embracing the service, Amazon has at times tried to shut it down, and is now trying to obtain the domain name under a trademark infringement action.
Ron did change the domain to Statsaholic but kept ownership of the original domain to drive traffic to the tool.
March 24, 2007 Alexa offers it’s side of the story.
They stress that Alexaholic “very clearly misappropriated the Alexa name” and defend themselves by mentioning the fact that they tried to resolve the issue via acquisition negotiations.
March 26, 2007 Alexa blocks Statsaholic from hot-linking traffic charts
It looks no less than a war between Alexa and Statsaholic at this point. Here are comments from Ron Hornbaker’s blog:
Alexa started blocking their graphs from appearing on the Statsaholic website by sniffing the referer header as the requests hit their servers…
Key Question: Why hasn’t Alexa made the graphs part of their official API and charged per request? They’ve done it with their website thumbnail images, and with data, but why not with the graphs? I would be their FIRST CUSTOMER for such a service, as long as it was priced appropriately.
April 3, 2007 Alexa slaps a huge logo on background of its graphs.
I can spot fairly negative reaction to the change.
Alexa data is far from accurate and this latest “watermark” development might reduce their popularity even more.The charts look more like an advertisement of Alexa than anything useful.
April 17, 2007 Alexa offers Traffic Graphs as a web service…
…but limits the usability of the data making the charts they offer from Alexa.com superior. For example the API allows to compare only 3 websites while Alexa.com allows up to 5.
April 18, 2007 Amazon sues Ron Hornbaker over Statsaholic (PDF file)
Alan Graham of ZDNet gives a great overview. If I were to pick just one sentence that summarizes it, it would be this:
The simple fact of the matter is that Ron Hornbaker built a better Alexa and as soon as it started to gain traction, and Alexa had already borrowed all the ideas it wanted from Alexaholic, they no longer needed it.
April 19, 2007 Pete Cashmore at Mashable launches a petition against the lawsuit in an attempt to get the matter a better visibility.
Pete notes an interesting point. In the lawsuit, Alexa claims that the data is proprietary, while in fact they rely on the community to obtain it. All the traffic data that Alexa has is gathered from people using Alexa toolbars in their browsers.
April 20, 2007 Tim O’Reilly interviews Amazon’s Jeff Bezos at the Web 2.0 Expo
Tim doesn’t seem to be taking any side in particular.
It appears to me that both Alexa and Ron Hornbaker have been acting somewhat foolishly here. Alexa should have taken an early lead to bring Ron into their fold… Meanwhile, Ron should have been more flexible and respectful. It is, after all, Alexa’s data that he’s using — and only that data.
The story now becomes a total mess. I very much hope the sides are still able to come to a settlement. However my hope fades with each day. Knowing what Amazon did in the past, it is not hard to guess that they clearly have issues with long term thinking. :-(