Recently there was 'big news', Myspace had passed Yahoo! in monthly page views. I put the words big news in quotes because it really wasn't as big news as it was made out to be.
It's common wisdom that Myspace is designed to generate a ton of page reloads every session. And social networks are always going to generate a lot of page views per session. People like to check other people out.
But there's even more to the story. Yahoo! revamped its mail service (which may be responsible for a third of its total pageviews) to use an ajax front end. What does that mean? Ajax and other dynamic html technologies allow a page to change content without a reload. So Yahoo!'s mail pageviews are down and that's going to have an impact on Yahoo!'s page view growth.
I've been on the board of comScore since its formation in 1999 and have been lucky to occupy a front row seat to observe the dynamics of the Internet measurement debate. Since Internet measurement became a business in the mid 90s, page views have always been front and center in the world of Internet measurement. And for a good reason, a page view meant another ad view, maybe another three or four ad views depending on how many ads are on the page.
But there are changes afoot in the Internet measurement business. Everyone is recognizing that pageviews matter less now. Ajax and other more modern web technologies allow for new ads to be diisplayed without a page reload. Ad views can grow even as page views decline. I know that there have been a number of discussions about this at the highest levels of the leading Internet measurement firms and the leading Internet businesses. And we'll be seeing the outcomes of those discussions at some point in 2007.
But it doesn't even stop there. Web pages themselves are changing, moving from pages controlled by publishers to pages controlled by users. I have no idea what percentage of total Internet pages viewed in the month of December are "controlled by users" (I'd love a number on that if anyone has it), but I am sure that percentage is increasing. I'd put some, but not all, social networking pages in this category. All blogs for sure. And the growing category of personalized start pages (Google, MyYahoo, Netvibes, etc) is a big part of this trend.
What do users put on these pages they control? In some cases, they put their own content, but they also put pieces of other web pages on their pages. These "pieces of other web pages" are called widgets, badges, embedded players, and a number of other things as well. If you want to do a deep dive into the world of widgets, I'll send you to Ivan Pope's year end wrapup. He covers most of the interesting things happening on this front. Here are a couple quotes from that post:
The Bite Sized Web, 'I think we're going to start to see an interesting side effect on web pages and blogs as content and services become more granular. Content providers, the Yahoo!'s, AOL's, publishers, magazines etc., will start to provide their content, in a dynamic form, for placement on other web pages.
Evan Williams of Odeo calls for the abolition of pageviews because 'The web is becoming increasingly widgetized—little bits of functionality from one site are displayed on many others.
Evan takes this post back to where it began. The big reason that 2007 will mark the end of page views is that pages are not really pages anymore. They are the delivery payload for any number of web services that load with the page.
MyBlogLog said in the middle of December that they are getting 1 million widgets displayed per day. Some of those widget impressions came from this blog. But the same page view that delivered the MyBlogLog widget also delivered a last.fm widget, a flickr badge, an Indeed jobroll, and a bunch of other web services to my readers. The bottom line is a page view isn't a page view anymore. It's a lot more and a lot less. And we are going to come up with new measurement terms in 2007 that recognize this fact.