I’ve spent most of my career working with and for large companies and clients. I watched the 90′s .com boom mostly from the outside, and only recently got involved with the startup ecosystem. So far, I’m finding it exciting and appealing, but there’s one aspect that flat-out confuses me.
Alexa is, in brief, spyware. It’s not sketchy like Gator or any of the other horrible things nerds have been cleaning off their mom’s computers for years, but it basically tells a server which websites you visit. In return for this, you can view some meta-information about the site you’re on, find related sites, etc. It’s been around for a while, and is now part of Amazon’s otherwise benevolent kingdom.
I have never, ever seen anyone use it. Anyone who is tech-savvy with a modicum of concern for privacy wouldn’t even think about installing it. I’ve even experimentally explained it to some non-techy people in neutral terms, and gotten negative responses.
The thing that confuses me is that it seems to be practically gospel in the startup/VC community, especially those who sit in the bleachers and offer commentary about the sector. This is largely due to the fact that it’s the only way to compare traffic between two sites, but its results are more than inaccurate, they are misleading, and dangerous.
I have available to me (not shareable, sorry) the traffic information for two sites. Site A has a mainstream audience and no revenue. Site B has a somewhat more technically-oriented audience, and is barely profitable. Site B gets twice as many visitors (and far more traffic) as Site A. Site A’s metrics on Alexa are twice that of Site B. I don’t even think a margin of error this vast has a name in statistics.
So I guess what I’m trying to say here is don’t use Alexa “until something better comes along” or “just for another viewpoint”. Just don’t use it at all.