Google has been the king of web analytics since early in its creation. Following their acquisition of Urchin, a top web analytics provider, in 2005, Google created Google Analytics and never bothered to look back.
History of Google Analytics
Since 2012, Google has used a system called Universal Analytics or UA. This has been the backbone behind Google Analytics and offers a slew of benefits. UA lets site owners track specific users across multiple platforms and even devices by assigning them user IDs.
This creates really rich customer data, allows offline behavior monitoring, and in 2016, through the use of AI, even lets the real time monitoring of users. Although these are great benefits for site users, there are a lot of worries around the privacy of site users. Google has always prided itself as being a socially conscious group and here they seem to falter.
Luckily, in 2020, Google Analytics 4 (GA4)was introduced. This is a new backbone for Google Analytics and changes a few key things about how Google does web analytics. Including most notably for Google’s social image, in the privacy department.
G4A does in fact track more, and more detailed and dense data, although it makes it a lot harder for sites to give users information out to anyone who wants it. Google now even offers a consent mode that will further reduce the types of data that GA4 can track.
G4A is fully compliant with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the standard behind web analytic privacy that UA failed to meet, something that has served as a major concern over the past few years.
This all represents a positive shift in how Google operated web analytics. By July 1st, 2023, UA will be completely phased out and replaced by GA4. This means that all current site owners need to make the transition in that time, something that takes some preparation and time. Still, regardless of the inconvenience to users, GA4 is the technological and social future of web analytics.