Does RevealSite Make You Big Brother? Or Is It Just Great Software?


March 28, 2006

RevealSite is unlike any other WA software I’ve worked with, because it is not about trends – it is real time monitoring of who visits your website or blog. They don’t use tracking cookies – they match IP address strings, “but most people in the US don’t have dynamic IP addresses,” Addison Schonland from RevealSite told me on the phone. (I haven’t had a static IP address since I started with cable in 2002 — and now I have fiber optic service — but I haven’t taken a poll on this topic.)

The software enables you to watch as individuals (or more correctly, their IP addresses) wander around your site. If you know who they are, you can rename them. You can send a text message (“It looks like you’re having trouble with that software download, how can I help you?”) and you can block someone, like a competitor whose address you recognize, from your site. You can change the color of a specific IP address to quickly alert you when someone special or problematic is on your site. You can even create a Welcome, You’re Special page and send it to replace the page that the IP address is looking at (or for that matter, a page that says, “We don’t need your type of IP address hanging around here.”)

On the one hand, I’m fascinated, on the other, I’m scared silly. “What’s so scary?” Addison asked (and I paraphrase, since I wasn’t taking notes.) He said, “It’s my site, I can let in the people I want. If it were my store, I’d kick someone out if they were inappropriately dressed. It’s the same thing.” Well, is it? People like the perception that they are anonymous on the Internet. It’s true that an unexpected chat message might help someone who is pogo-sticking between the menu and the content, but will that person feel like Big Brother is watching? Some companies don’t even like to send email that says, “You left Widget X” in your shopping cart, because it breaks the illusion that the customer is anonymous. They find it more effective to write, “We’re having a 5% discount sale this week on Widgets X,Y and Z” and the customer feels that they just got a lucky break.” But you know, I have a special bias, I worry about conversion all the time. Other kinds of sites may have different concerns and so RevealSite may be just the ticket for them.

On the technical front, the monitoring dashboard runs on IE, and it seems to do a better job of picking up visitors who use IE than those who use FireFox (when Addison demoed it back to me from his site, he couldn’t pick up my visit until I opened his site in an IE browser.) After a three hour trial, I had to take it off my blog because it forced the entire page to scroll down to the bottom.

Addison and everyone else – you are welcome to comment and tell me how wrong I am.