Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Update: Google Responds, Urchin Works

I sent out an email to the team last night:
Hallelujah! We've got data!
After 49 empty hours, we've got data through 1pm today. Urchin works again!
Google customer service both called and emailed us yesterday as well, apologized for our troubles, and offered to refund money to us. I told them that a refund was nice, but what's really important is that Urchin works. To me, that means our website data consistently available with no more than 2-3 hours' delay.

The big issue is not one startup's angst about its temporary lack of web stats. The big issue is whether it's possible to reliably deliver complex software over the Internet at all. Google is the biggest player in this space, with vast resources of engineering, bandwidth, and servers, but everyone from to Zvents is attempting to deliver significant software functionality remotely over the Internet.

We are asking our customers to bet their businesses on our ability to deliver. "Flaky but free" simply does not cut it any more. How many of you out there rely on Yahoo or Google email for business-critical communications? What if it went down tomorrow, for 48 hours? What if stopped working for 48 hours? What if Ebay or Adwords stopped working? Marketing campaigns, communications, and commerce grind to a halt, and real damage is done to real people and real businesses.

Can this really work? The whole premise of the next generation of Web startups is that it can. Zvents is planning on embedding its calendars and serving events into a lot of other people's websites, such as early adopter LinkSV. If we go down, they have no events calendar on their site. As we grow, that customer reliance on us will grow to tens of thousands of similar sites, and if they have no data for 48 hours, there will be anguished screams that will sound very similar to my own post.

I think it can work, but it's going to require not only a business model, but a lot of grownup enterprise kind of thinking, with SLAs and obligations and recompense for failure clearly laid out in contracts. Otherwise, the level of trust simply won't exist to create the very cool future that we're imagining and building right now.

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