Prior to being acquired by Google, Urchin Software Corporation was a scrappy startup in San Diego that progressed from web hosting into software development.
Fast forward to today: the most popular web analytics tool in the world (Google Analytics) is Urchin, rebranded.
The Early Days
In 1996, Scott Crosby and Paul Muret founded a small web hosting company: Quantified Systems. Clients were billed by the amount of bandwidth a website used, so Paul cobbled together a program that would parse web server logs and figure out how much bandwidth was used per customer.
Over time, the log parser was updated and began to show things like pageviews, hits, and sessions. The log parser was also extremely fast, and the combination of speed and reporting features proved to be a hit with customers. Urchin Software was born.
After a few years and some early wins, Quantified Systems rebranded to Urchin Software Corporation. In the early 2000s the company hit some major bumps in the road, like a failed VC funding round in Sept 2001 and an expensive, unsuccessful attempt at international expansion (to Japan!). In spite of these setbacks, Urchin persevered and was acquired by Google in 2005.
Scott details the early days of Urchin in an article posted on medium.com – it’s an engaging read:
Urchin Software Corp. – The unlikely origin story of Google Analytics.
In early 2005, Urchin Software Corp. offered 2 products:
- Urchin Software – v5, downloadable, self-hosted software
- Urchin On Demand – v6, SaaS offering, hosted by Urchin
The Urchin folks met a Google team at the Search Engine Strategies conference in 2004 – Google was interested in acquiring a web analytics company and Urchin was at the top of the list…after Omniture turned down Google’s offer first. The deal went through in spring 2005, Urchin on Demand was released as “Urchin from Google” in November 2005, and was rebranded as Google Analytics in 2006.
For a few years thereafter, Google Analytics received all the attention from development and marketing, while Urchin Software languished on the sidelines.
Finally in 2008, Google released Urchin 6.4. – it was glorious. The new user interface looked great, the reports were useful, and legions of furious Urchin customers were satisfied.
In 2010, Google released Urchin 7 with even more features and an updated interface. The future was looking bright for Urchin. Unfortunately…
End of Days
In the summer of 2011, Google announced a new initiative: More Wood Behind Fewer Arrows
In other words, Google was going to cull its herd of products so it could focus on the best ones. Looking back, Urchin Software, Google Labs, Google Buzz, Google Reader, Google Health, and a handful of other products were a casualty of this announcement.
Urchin 7 received a few more updates but Paul Muret himself wrote the final blog post:
The End of an Era for Urchin Software
One of the fun things about Urchin is if you don’t make any changes to the underlying OS or hardware, it will run forever. It’s almost 2020 and we know of a handful of companies that still use Urchin 5!
But with each passing year, Urchin becomes more and more outdated.
If you still use Urchin, here are some reasons why you should replace it.