2013 screenshot of Alexa.com home page
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, U.S|
|Industry||Internet information providers|
|Products||Alexa Web Search (discontinued 2008)
|Parent||Amazon.com (acquired 1999)|
|Alexa rank||1,476 (December 2013[update])|
|Type of site||Web traffic and ranking|
Alexa Internet, Inc. is a California-based subsidiary company of Amazon.com which provides commercial web traffic data. Founded as an independent company in 1996, Alexa was acquired by Amazon in 1999. Its toolbar collects data on browsing behavior and transmits it to the Alexa website, where it is stored and analyzed, forming the basis for the company's web traffic reporting. As of 2013, Alexa provides traffic data, global rankings and other information on 30 million websites, and its website is visited by over 8.5 million people monthly.
Operations and history
Alexa Internet was founded in 1996 by American web entrepreneurs Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat. The company's name was chosen in homage to the Library of Alexandria, drawing a parallel between the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world and the potential of the Internet to become a similar store of knowledge.
The company offered a toolbar that gave Internet users suggestions on where to go next, based on the traffic patterns of its user community. Alexa also offered context for each site visited: to whom it was registered, how many pages it had, how many other sites pointed to it, and how frequently it was updated.
Alexa's operation includes archiving of webpages as they are crawled. This database served as the basis for the creation of the Internet Archive accessible through the Wayback Machine. In 1998, the company donated a copy of the archive, two terabytes in size, to the Library of Congress. Alexa continues to supply the Internet Archive with Web crawls.
In 1999, Alexa was acquired by Amazon.com for about US$250 million in Amazon stock as the company moved away from its original vision of providing an "intelligent" search engine. Alexa began a partnership with Google in early 2002, and with the Open Directory Project in January 2003. In May 2006, Amazon replaced Google with Live Search as a provider of search results. In December 2006, they released Alexa Image Search. Built in-house, it was the first major application to be built on their Web platform.
In December 2005, Alexa opened its extensive search index and Web-crawling facilities to third party programs through a comprehensive set of Web services and APIs. These could be used, for instance, to construct vertical search engines that could run on Alexa's own servers or elsewhere. In May 2007, Alexa changed their API to require comparisons be limited to three sites, reduced the size of embedded graphs shown using Flash, and added mandatory embedded BritePic ads.
In April 2007, the lawsuit Alexa v. Hornbaker was filed to stop trademark infringement by the Statsaholic service. In the lawsuit, Alexa alleged that Hornbaker was stealing traffic graphs for profit, and that the primary purpose of his site was to display graphs that were generated by Alexa's servers. Hornbaker removed the term Alexa from his service name on March 19, 2007.
On November 27, 2008, Amazon announced that Alexa Web Search was no longer accepting new customers, and that the service would be deprecated or discontinued for existing customers on January 26, 2009. Thereafter, Alexa became a purely analytics-focused company.
Alexa ranks sites based primarily on tracking a sample set of internet traffic — users of its toolbar for the Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome web browsers. The Alexa Toolbar includes a popup blocker, a search box, links to Amazon.com and the Alexa homepage, and the Alexa ranking of the site that the user is visiting. It also allows the user to rate the site and view links to external, relevant sites.
In early 2005, Alexa stated that there had been 10 million downloads of the toolbar, though the company did not provide statistics about active usage. The Alexa Toolbar for Internet Explorer 7 has previously been flagged as malware by Microsoft Defender. A third-party-supplied plugin for the Firefox browser served as the only solution after Amazon abandoned its A9 toolbar. On 16 July 2007, Alexa released an official toolbar for Firefox called Sparky. Originally, webpages were only ranked amongst users who had the Alexa Toolbar installed, and could be biased if a specific audience subgroup was reluctant to take part in the rankings. This caused some controversy over how representative Alexa's user base was of typical Internet behavior, especially for less-visited sites. In 2007, Michael Arrington provided examples of Alexa rankings known to contradict data from the comScore web analytics service, including ranking YouTube ahead of Google.
On 16 April 2008, many users reported dramatic shifts in their Alexa rankings. Alexa confirmed this later in the day with an announcement that they had released an updated ranking system, claiming that they would now take into account more data sources "beyond Alexa Toolbar users".
A number of antivirus companies have assessed Alexa's toolbar. Symantec classifies the toolbar as "trackware", while McAfee classifies it as adware, a "Potentially Unwanted Program." McAfee Site Advisor rates the Alexa site as "green", finding "no significant problems" but warning of a "small fraction of downloads ... that some people consider adware or other potentially unwanted programs."
On March 31, 2009, the Alexa website underwent a major redesign, offering new web traffic metrics, including average page views per each individual user, bounce rate, and user time on site. In the following weeks, Alexa added further features, including visitor demographics, clickstream and search traffic statistics. These new features were introduced in order to compete with other web analytics services, such as Compete.com and Quantcast.
- List of most popular websites
- List of search engines
- List of Web directories
- SimilarGroup, which operates a comparable web-tracking service
- "About Alexa Internet". Archived from the original on 7 October 2009. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- "Alexa.com Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- "About". Alexa. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- "ALEXA Internet Donates Archive of the World Wide Web To Library of Congress". Alexa press release. 13 October 1998. Archived from the original on 13 October 2009. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- "A "Gift of the Web" for the Library of Congress from Alexa Internet". 19 October 1998. Retrieved 19 October 2009.
- Keith Dawson (28 July 1997). "Alexa Internet opens the doors". Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- "Internet Archive FAQs". Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- Adam Feuerstein (21 May 1999). "E-commerce loves Street: Critical Path plans encore". San Francisco Business Times. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- Elizabeth Montalbano (1 May 2006). "Amazon dumps Google for Windows Live". infoworld. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
- "Northern California District Federal court Case number — C 07-01715 RS" (PDF). Archived from the original on 22 April 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2007.
- Alan Graham (18 April 2007). "Amazon sues Alexaholic...everyone loses!". ZDnet. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
- Pete Cashmore (19 April 2007). "Amazon sues Statsaholic...Web as Platform is Bullsh*t". Mashable. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- John Cook (27 November 2008). "Amazon pulling plug on Alexa Web Search". Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2008.
- "Technology: How and Why We Crawl the Web". Alexa. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
- Harold Davis (2006). Google Advertising Tools: Cashing in with AdSense, Adwords, and the Google APIs. O'Reilly Media. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-596-10108-4.
- "Windows Defender calls Alexa Toolbar Trojan". TMCNet. 2 March 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- "SearchStatus: A Search Extension for Firefox and SeaMonkey". Quirk.biz. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- Home. A9.com. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- "Sparky Add-on for Firefox Released Today". Alexa Blog. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- Alistair Croll; Seán Power (2009). Complete Web Monitoring: Watching Your Visitors, Performance, Communities, and Competitors. O'Reilly Media. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-596-15513-1.
- Michael Arrington. "Alexa’s Make Believe Internet"; "Alexa Says YouTube Is Now Bigger Than Google. Alexa Is Useless". TechCrunch. 2007. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- "Alexa Announcement". Archived from the original on 24 April 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
- "Alexa Overhauls Ranking System". TechCrunch. 16 April 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "Trackware. Alexa — Symantec.com". 13 February 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
- "Adware-Alexa". 23 February 2005. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
- "Alexa.com: Web Safety Ratings from McAfee SiteAdvisor". September 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2008.
- Geoffrey Mack (31 March 2009). "Pardon our dust". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
- Geoffrey Mack (14 April 2009). "More New Alexa Features: Demographics, Clickstream, Search Traffic". Retrieved 9 October 2009.
- Herman Tumurcuoglu (14 March 2010). "Web Page Rank from Google, Alexa, Quantcast and Compete.com". Analytics Blog. Retrieved 6 November 2011.