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When Google acquisitions go wrong: Just for the money?
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Sat Oct 13, 2007 12:34 pm Reply and quote this post
...The disappointing story of Urchin

Just because the big G rolls up with a truckload of cash doesn't mean that newly acquired companies are about to get a jolt of productivity. Such is the case with Urchin, whose software and support lies mostly dormant nearly three years later.

In March of 2005, Google acquired Urchin Software Corporation, a San Diego-based web analytics company. A few short months later, Google Analytics was unveiled, which was based on "Urchin On Demand," Urchin's javascript-based "Software as a Service" (SaaS) web traffic analytics solution. Urchin customers were generally thrilled about the acquisition, because it was assumed that it meant great things were in store for all of Urchin's customers. In reality, Urchin's core customers have been ignored, product development has stopped on everything but Google Analytics, and companies are wondering why Google took the money and, well, ran.

Arstechnica wrote:
The problem stems from the apparent fact that Google's interest in Urchin Software Corporation was limited to its SaaS offering. Google has since developed Urchin On Demand into a real powerhouse analytics suite, and given its ease-of-use and cost ("free"), it's amazingly popular. The problem is that Urchin's other analytic tools have been ignored since the acquisition took place, but they weren't supposed to be.

Urchin's most popular analytics software was a server-based log analysis suite known simply as "Urchin." Urchin 5 came in a variety of flavors, priced according to tiers. It could be had for as little as $900, or you could easily pay more than $10,000, depending on the features and support you needed.

Urchin's log-based analysis gave webmasters access to data that is not available to javascript-based solutions (particularly: info for/on non-javascript clients, server-side application errors, custom user tracking, and more). Many customers would much rather have Urchin updated than turn to Google Analytics. Yet Urchin is still sitting at version 5.7, even though version 6 was in testing in late 2004, just before the Google acquisition.

In the wake of Google's purchase of the company, inquiring customers (including Ars Technica) were told that support and updates would continue. Companies that had purchased support contracts were expecting version 6 any day, including Ars. What really happened is this: Google focused its attention on Google Analytics, put all updates to Urchin's other products on the back burner, and rolled out a skeleton support team. Everyone who forked over for upgrades via a support contract never got them, even though things weren't supposed to have changed.

The support experience has been awful. Since the acquisition, we have had two major issues with Urchin, and neither issue was solved by Google's support team. In fact, with one issue, we were helped up until the point it got difficult, and then the help vanished. The support team literally just stopped responding.

As InfoWorld points out in a report on the situation, Google won't comment on if or when an update is coming. The report cites customers who are worried that this means Urchin may be "discontinued." Here's a news flash: when it takes 2.5 years to get an upgrade out that was due shortly after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, it's already effectively "discontinued."

Many companies desperately want to believe that Google still takes Urchin seriously, however. I suppose when you pay more than $10,000 for software and support contracts, it's painful to watch a third party walk right in and destroy the value of that software purchase by failing to provide meaningful support and turning its attention elsewhere.  
"Them's the breaks,"
as they say: the support contracts never guaranteed upgrades.

Of course, after buying the company, Google is free to do with it as they see fit. It's a shame, however, because Urchin's tools were indeed some of the best, and Google Analytics is not a drop-in replacement. We've long since given up hope of ever seeing 6.0, but given the fact that Google still offers a trial and still directs people to resellers for 5.7, perhaps we shouldn't give up hope just yet.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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