January 31, 2001, 11:24 AM

When is a web user not a user?

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

How many people are using the web? The answer often depends on who’s doing the measuring. A unique visitor measured by the web site itself relying on IP addresses may be a repeat visitor to a measuring service, which relies on consumer interviews. The Radiate Internet Roundtable is trying to sort out that confusion. Formed in the middle of last year, the Radiate Internet Roundtable has 19 high-profile members who will be meeting for the third time this month to try to define users and visits. Its newest members are Yahoo! and Greenfield Online, both of which joined in mid-December.

At the meeting this month, the group hopes to settle on definitions of unique users, what a web property is (is it a web site or is it also software that gets accessed when a user comes to a site) and whether access through different kinds of devices (i.e., computer vs. PDA) constitutes a separate use of the same site. The questions are more than academic; in today’s market, numbers of users dictate the valuation of a company. A web site that says it has 1.5 million users based on IP addresses but which a measurement service says has 300,000 users based on consumer interviews will find its valuation greatly affected.

The Radiate Internet Roundtable is sponsored by Radiate of Mountain View, Calif., which provides ad-server software. Its interest in harmonizing definitions and measurements stems from its desire to have the use of its software measured accurately.

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