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Google's early attempt at search personalization was a real dog. With "My Search History" the company is much closer to getting it right.

Lots and lots has already been written about it:

It's integrated into the Google search interface and results page (once you've registered/signed in) and it indicates your search history, not to be confused with the history of Web sites you've viewed and visited. So it works in tandem with but is distinct from Google's desktop search.

It's accessed from a link "My Search History" in the upper right of the results page. I'm not sure I agree with Chris Sherman that it entirely replaces bookmarks — at least not those embedded in toolbars and browser toolbars — but it appears to be pretty useful.

It's most like A9's search history functionality and, to the extent it's categorized as "personalization," unlike MyYahoo! Search or Ask's new and improved My Jeeves services. Both of those require set-up and active management of features by the user.

Admittedly the Yahoo! and Jeeves applications are more robust, but they're also more complex and therefore less likely to be widely adopted. My belief is that — at least for the mainstream — the future of personalization lies in some combination of passively saved search history, desktop search and My Yahoo!.

Now back to Google in particular.

So what does this mean or do for Google? (Some see it as a catch-up move entirely.)

  • It potentially creates more utility and thus more potential loyalty.
  • Then there's the perfunctory "it creates more potential page views and thus more potential AdWords inventory" (more inventory is important).
  • It gives people a reason to offer information to Google (though that is currently thin), if they haven't already done it with Groups or Gmail (here they're playing catch-up with Yahoo! and AOL). That could be the beginning of greater demographic targeting or, certainly, behaviorial targeting.

In other words, there are many goals it potentially serves. I don't agree with Forrester's Charlene Li, who says it won't be widely used by the mainstream. More specifically, I believe the challenge is showing people they benefit and should register in order to use it. Once they do, I think they'll find it valuable and useful.

Privacy issues/concerns are there and could be a potential usage deterrent, but that remains to be seen.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mark Naples' piece on privacy and My Search History makes a very valid point: The US can use it via the Patriot Act to effectively monitor private behavior that should be beyond that capability.

    That was something I was not thinking about when I wrote this. But Mark's remarks equally apply to any personalization or similar history/tracking feature.

    It's lamentable that we live in a time when these sorts of ulilities, which have genuine use, can be corrupted/coopted by our own govt. It's also lamentable that we all now need to be paranoid about such things.

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