After over a year of work, the W3C Customer Experience Digital Data Community Group has released the Customer Experience Digital Data Layer specification document. This is about as close as we're likely to get to a standard in the web analytics space. It's been a long slog and much of the credit has to go to to Viswanath Srikanth at IBM for herding the cats to get the job done.
This is an exciting time in web analytics. A data layer standard allows our industry to move to the next layer of abstraction. Once this gets implemented, we'll be able to focus on more interesting things than basic implementations. For example, with the common standard you shouldn't need to do anything special for regular things like an ecommerce implementation. Shopping cart software vendors will implement the data layer once, and you just pull what you need from there in your tag manager.
There's still much to be done, in particular the data layer helper library being built by Brian Kuhn at Google. The current data layer is static, rendered with the page at page load time echoing old school web analytics.
Brian's helper library makes the data layer dynamic, using the Google Analytics queue mechanism to enable changes to be made during the lifetime of a page, essential for modern web applications. The crucial change here is that while Google Analytics replaces the push() method of _gaq once loaded and handles everything itself, the helper library allows multiple listeners to register and be notified of any new updates to the data layer. So once an update occurs to the data layer, multiple analytics tools or tag managers are able to react to the change and do things. Very cool.
It's a great day. Really excited and planning my first implementation right away.