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Database of Intentions, Round Two

By - April 20, 2007

Web History

First there was search history. Then a ton of widgets and apps to help you as you, well, stumble around the web. Now Google, as I expected, has launched Web History. In other words, the rest of what you do online. This whole trend needs a name. Wait, OK, my name for it is the Database of Intentions. But the issue, the nub, the rub, the trade off between privacy, data, and benefits – that also needs a catchy name. Google gets better the more data it has about everything. It also gets scarier.

I asked Eric about this in our conversation and he was quite clear – Google will support data portability and transparency. I am thrilled to hear it. It’s a non trivial thing to do. But it’s essential, as Eric pointed out, to Google’s brand that it be trusted.

From Google’s Blog post:

Today, we’re pleased to announce the launch of Web History, a new feature for Google Account users that makes it easy to view and search across the pages you’ve visited. If you remember seeing something online, you’ll be able to find it faster and from any computer with Web History. Web History lets you look back in time, revisit the sites you’ve browsed, and search over the full text of pages you’ve seen. It’s your slice of the web, at your fingertips.

How does Web History work? All you need is a Google Account and the Google Toolbar with PageRank enabled.

Does the idea of Google knowing everywhere you go on the web scare you? Or does it thrill you? It does both for me.

Again, I ask these questions: do we need a data Switzerland? Or at the very least, do we need a data Bill of Rights?


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8 thoughts on “Database of Intentions, Round Two

  1. mb says:

    Google’s secret sauce is relevance. Google’s growing market share is due to superior relevance of search results, and Google’s juicy operating margins are due to superior relevance of ads.

    It’s the relevance gap that accounts for Yahoo’s stagnant market share, single-digit revenue growth, and declining monetization (down 7% year over year). Meanwhile, Google grabs more share every quarter, revenue from Google sites is up 76% year over year, and revenue-per-click continues to climb.

    It’s the relevance gap that allows Google’s TAC rate as a percent of network revenues to decline, while Yahoo’s has to buy partnerships with ever increasing TAC rates.

    As I commented in your 4/16 GoogleClick post, analysts are missing the point when they see the DoubleClick deal as an attempt to “corner the market” for display ads. The real benefit isn’t control, it’s relevance.

    Search history is a pretty good “database of intentions,” but it’s still very incomplete.

    If I search for [maya], will my search history tell you if I’m looking for Maya Angelou or the Maya civilization or the Maya animation software from Autodesk? Maybe.

    Right now my search for [maya] turns up all of these as both search results and PPC ads — not very relevant.

    But if you also had my browsing history, you’d know that I’ve been looking for flights to the Yucatan so you’d show me search results for the Maya civilization and ads for adventure travel and hotels in Cancun.

    By linking browsing behavior (through Web Search, or DoubleClick), Google can deliver a big leap in relevance for search results, search ads, AdSense ads, and DoubleClick ads — not to mention Dish/DirecTV ads down the line. And relevance equals more clicks and higher CPCs.

    But the only way this can happen is if Google solves the privacy riddle.

    If Google confronts the privacy issue head-on, in public and with with full transparency, they can turn this potential privacy liability into a competitive advantage.

    But if all Google does is mitigate the privacy issue with more disclosures and half-steps like anonymizing server logs after 18 months, it probably won’t be bold enough to counter the resistance from privacy groups amplified by powerful competitors.

  2. Jessan Dunn Otis says:

    What’s “relevant” to me are my rights and privacy – your’s, too. If anyone wants to “take” those from me, I suggest that they might reverse the payment pyramid and pay me each time they accumulate information about what I search, research and explore on the ‘net.

    Simply stated – ain’t nobody’s business what I do.

  3. Hercule DB says:

    This is the single most important issue in the commercial world. I am the consumer. To know me is to serve me better. To be known is to expose me to greater risk. I am the consumer. I am trillions of dollars of commercial potential. How will you know me without invading my privacy and exposing me to financial, personal and perhaps even fatal risks? How will you serve me if all you know of me is what you guess from a few search words or a single click on a banner ad? I’m anxiously awaiting this answer . . . -Hercule DB

  4. Feinkost says:

    As you mention it´s a medal with two sides. Yes: all the data sharing brings great advantages to every webuser, and yes: there is a big potential for bad use of data. I think there has to be a data Bill of Rights.

  5. If you can adequately protect privacy, this can have significant benefits for advertisers and consumers. Right now most publishers load up their pages with irrelevant ads because RPMs are low, in the hopes that they’ll find someone of interest.

    I should never see an ad for mortgages, refinancing or the University of Phoenix.

    Some more thoughs here: Google + DoubleClick = fewer ads?

    For this product, I accomplish the same goal on a per computer basis with Google Desktop Search. GDS does a good job of indexing what I visit.

  6. nmw says:

    They just still want to pretend they’re a search engine rather than an ad agency.

    This is little more than a press release.

    ;) nmw

  7. deanc says:

    Hi,

    Here is a question for anyone who may know the answer…

    I have a new website with google ads on it. If I get 10 clicks per day on my ads, does google favor my site over and above others that may be in the same category that don’t run google ads?

    I was thinking to some extent they might, so they can make more money.

    Do you know anything about this?

    Thanks, and I look forward to your reply.

    Dean
    http://www.businesscarddisplays.info

  8. David says:

    I wonder if the next step for Google will be the Google avatar…

    They have your opt in search history to build a profile of you.
    They have your opt in Personal Google Page where you store your feeds and widgets and any custom searches.
    They can (and possibly/probably? already do) intersect your database of intentions profile with the global database of intentions profile for a given subject area.
    What’s to stop them doing it when you aren’t around?
    So you switch on your pc/mobilephone/whatever and Google already has results for you to peruse – clustered perhaps for easy disambiguation.
    And then it chimes in on your GPS enabled phone/pda to provide you with yet further information.
    So to take John’s example from his book – you DON’T have to go and search to see whether the shop down the road is selling wine more cheaply – Google can tell you whether that is the case as soon as you show an interest in a particular item.
    And every time you interact with it – it gets better.

    Over here in dear ole blighty (that’s the UK for those that don’t know) The webex chat comes too late in the evening for me but if my thoughts are reasonable – I really would like to hear a discussion on the implications.