Does RevealSite make you Big Brother? Or is it just great software?


RevealSite is unlike any other WA software I’ve worked with, because it is not about trends – it is real time monitoring of who visits your website or blog. They don’t use tracking cookies – they match IP address strings, “but most people in the US don’t have dynamic IP addresses,” Addison Schonland from RevealSite told me on the phone. (I haven’t had a static IP address since I started with cable in 2002 — and now I have fiber optic service — but I haven’t taken a poll on this topic.)

The software enables you to watch as individuals (or more correctly, their IP addresses) wander around your site. If you know who they are, you can rename them. You can send a text message (“It looks like you’re having trouble with that software download, how can I help you?”) and you can block someone, like a competitor whose address you recognize, from your site. You can change the color of a specific IP address to quickly alert you when someone special or problematic is on your site. You can even create a Welcome, You’re Special page and send it to replace the page that the IP address is looking at (or for that matter, a page that says, “We don’t need your type of IP address hanging around here.”)

On the one hand, I’m fascinated, on the other, I’m scared silly. “What’s so scary?” Addison asked (and I paraphrase, since I wasn’t taking notes.) He said, “It’s my site, I can let in the people I want. If it were my store, I’d kick someone out if they were inappropriately dressed. It’s the same thing.” Well, is it? People like the perception that they are anonymous on the Internet. It’s true that an unexpected chat message might help someone who is pogo-sticking between the menu and the content, but will that person feel like Big Brother is watching? Some companies don’t even like to send email that says, “You left Widget X” in your shopping cart, because it breaks the illusion that the customer is anonymous. They find it more effective to write, “We’re having a 5% discount sale this week on Widgets X,Y and Z” and the customer feels that they just got a lucky break.” But you know, I have a special bias, I worry about conversion all the time. Other kinds of sites may have different concerns and so RevealSite may be just the ticket for them.

On the technical front, the monitoring dashboard runs on IE, and it seems to do a better job of picking up visitors who use IE than those who use FireFox (when Addison demoed it back to me from his site, he couldn’t pick up my visit until I opened his site in an IE browser.) After a three hour trial, I had to take it off my blog because it forced the entire page to scroll down to the bottom.

Addison and everyone else – you are welcome to comment and tell me how wrong I am.


Our owner and CEO, Robbin Steif, started LunaMetrics twelve years ago. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Business School, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Digital Analytics Association. Robbin is a winner of a BusinessWomen First award, as well as a recent Diamond Award for business leadership. You should read her letter before you decide to work with us.

  • Ìain

    Hi Robbin

    My name is Iain Maclean, I am RevealSite’s President, and I have been responsible for the system’s design and development since the get-go. We are always pleased when people take the time to write about product, and I would like to thank you for your entry.

    I wish to respond to two points in your post about RevealSite:

    1. Being ‘scared silly’ by the tool.
    2. The problem you encountered after runing RevealSite for three hours on your blog.

    1. We understand that there are many situations in which site visitors just want to view pages in peace – how would it be if you were in a library reading and someone asked you if they could help you? Not good. On the other hand, if you have gone into a shop selling widgets, and this is going to be your first widget, then perhaps you would appreciate a litte help.

    Currently it doesn’t matter where you go in the internet universe, you are alone…unless the site owner is using RevealSite. Our vision is that within two years visitors to retail sites will expect to be greeted by people – in fact they will insist on it, navigating away if no-one talks to them within a few seconds of arrival. And not just retail; B2B, reality, media, transportation, the uses are endless.

    2. One of the earliest decisions we made in developing the dashboard for our clients, was to only support IE. This was done based on the traffic we saw coming through our early trial sites, more than 80% of browser were IE 5.5+. But I want to be clear, we capture visits to client web sites by ALL known browsers, it is only the reporting back of that information that must be viewed through IE.

    We have a wide range of clients including a number who use RevealSite on their blogs (Addison’s is an example) and while there are always new bugs as we encounter new environments, we are not aware of a problem where RevealSite tags cause your blog to scroll down. That is not to say it doesn’t exist, I would appreciate the opportunity to have my people investigate the specific problem.

  • Anonymous

    Servicing/suporting the customer’s experience is a key element in business. I am a little concerned that the vision is “that within two years visitors to retail sites will expect to be greeted by people”. Pretty sure that is why 80% of the people visit web sites in the first place. To have a peaceful experience. Having a live chat box on the site, may solve that problem. I would say people should request help not be prodded to take it.

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