MySpace vs. Yahoo Mail or Apples vs. Oranges

    July 13, 2006

It’s pretty amusing watching everyone misinterpret the recently released Hitwise data. Claims of “MySpace Bigger than Yahoo!” sure make for good headlines, but only if “good” means “attention grabbing” not “based in reality.”

I was mildly alarmed when I first heard the noise but spent a few minutes looking into it and now understand a bit more of what’s going on.

Let’s review the situation, shall we?

It’s hard to blame people for jumping to the wrong conclusions. On their blog post the wise folks at Hitwise managed to make this as confusing as possible for someone who isn’t reading carefully (you know, skimming).

How’d they do that?

1. They used a headline which implied that MySpace is the biggest site on the web. But one you start reading the text, you find that they’re comparing to “Yahoo! Mail.” Seriously. So what’s a site? A domain name? What about international versions?

2. They included a completely unrelated graph that shows how compares with over time. (I wonder if they run the numbers without the www prefix?)

3. They further confuse things by providing a table of search referral terms that constitute what we call “navigational queries” to illustrate… something. But does that make any sense? Why would a Yahoo! user use a search to find Yahoo? Or a Google user use Google to find Google?

To recap: there are three useless apples vs. oranges comparisons (MySpace and Yahoo! Mail, MySpace and Google, and the search terms) that really don’t help to support their claim very well.

Can someone please explain to me how this has anything to do with Yahoo?

It seems to confirm what we all knew already: MySpace is growing like a weed. Duh. But “bigger” than Yahoo? Not by a long shot. Don’t make me dig up user statistics, time spent on site, and all that other stuff.

This feels a lot like Hitwise trading their credibility for some cheap press headlines. I guess it’s working.

[And no, this is me bitching, not an official Yahoo! statement. I can get you one of those if you’d really like…]

Jeremy Zawodny is the author of the popular Jeremy Zawodny’s blog. Jeremy is part of the Yahoo search team and frequently posts in the Yahoo! Search blog as well.

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