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Net tracking firm to tally wireless traffic

WebSideStory, a firm that measures Internet audiences, is scheduled to announce on Monday a new feature that includes wireless visitors in its traffic reports.

    WebSideStory, a firm that measures Internet audiences, is scheduled to announce on Monday a new feature that includes wireless visitors in its traffic reports.

    Using its HitBox technology, the San Diego-based company will track people who use cellular telephones, handheld gadgets and other wireless devices to tap into the Internet. The software collects detailed but anonymous information on every surfer to a Web page.

    WebSideStory is the first to venture into this territory, although its service is still in the testing stage, company executives said.

    "Nobody has come up with a method of tracking wireless Web pages," said Geoff Johnston, vice president of corporate communications. "We think this is pretty exciting."

    The company also is adding a feature to its existing measuring technology that will allow executives to access Web traffic results by cellular phone.

    Industry leaders Media Metrix and Nielsen/NetRatings said they, too, plan to count wireless Web visitors soon.

    As more people use wireless contraptions to check stocks, surf the Net and send email, Web pages that accommodate these visitors will have to be measured, Johnston said.

    Already, about 6.6 million Internet subscribers have wireless access, and that figure is expected to grow to 400 million by 2003, a Banc of America Securities report shows.

    Traffic reports are crucial for Net businesses because they can move stocks, attract or deter advertisers, and influence venture-funding deals.

    The numbers also help in planning business strategies based on consumer demographics.

    With WebSideStory's wireless feature, executives will be able to tell what kind of device their visitor is using, which area code they are calling from, and other standard details such as how many times a page is reloaded and which pages are being viewed.

    The patent for this tracking technology is still pending, and cost for the service has not been determined, Johnston said.

    Privately held WebSideStory recently defended its HitBox technology in a copyright dispute with a rival firm. The matter ended in a settlement, the conditions of which were confidential.