What’s After Web 2.0? Thoughts About The Personal Browser

December 27, 2007 at 6:15 am | Posted in Advertising, Books, Communication, Companies, Cookies, Decision making, Facebook, General, Marketing, Microsoft, MySpace, Online marketing, Second Life, Tagging, Usability, Web 2.0 | 4 Comments
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If Web 1.0 – typified by online newspapers and emails – was about one to many content production, and if Web 2.0 – typified by WordPress and twitter – is about connecting people through a many to one publishing model, then what comes next? I used to think it would be something of a network or matrix – many talking to many. But don’t we already have that? What’s really missing? Instead of thinking macro, we need to be thinking micro. Here are some thoughts on the personalized internet browser.

If we already have everything we need in terms of connections to other people, then the next logical iteration of online behavior is to make our communication and shopping more personal. What if there was an internet browser that knew who I was?

Let’s take online shopping: I imagine we could have a browser that automatically loaded my preferences, including clothing sizes, preferred brands, etc. And I’m talking across the internet – not just on a particular site. If I look for jeans, this browser would load size 34×32. It would place Izod in front of Sean John. Blue and black shirts would be listed before green. If I got a hankering for rugby shirts all of a sudden, it would respond in kind.

This system would be as much or more based on exclusion as it would about inclusion. I can assure you that I will never ever ever buy anything from Nike, but I do like Converse and Simple. This is an an important distinction if you want me to buy something from your store. (More about the importance of exclusion in Rob Walker’s article in Fast Company this month.)

Instead of cookies used between my computer and Amazon, and my computer and Barnes & Noble’s, and my computer and Best Buy, they would all be integrated across the board. This browser would recognize items rather than stores. For instance, if I am shopping for a book, I wouldn’t need to go to Amazon, B&N, and Powell’s individually. I could search for the book and get a list of prices from each online vendor. Likewise, book recommendations would not be based on a particular site, but rather the internet at large.

Here are a few other problems that would be solved by the type of browser I am describing:

  • Why can’t I move my half.com wish list to Amazon or another retailer, and then why can’t I morph that into a wedding registry on TheKnot?
  • Why do I have to log in to MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster separately to see if I have messages or to see what my friends are doing?
  • Why can’t I crop and size a photo and use it to create a SecondLife avatar which would then be used as a basis for a World of Warcraft character?

These are not difficult steps to take, relatively. We already have the information and we are quickly becoming adept at manipulating it. Now we just need to make it dynamic and customizable which is far less difficult. Sure, someone will need to develop a smart cookies and a nice interface and a business model (uber-targeted ads, perhaps?), but it is certainly within reach.

To sum up, the standards then for the personalized internet would be as follows:

  • Customized (and customizable) based on the person
  • Based on inclusion and exclusion of items
  • Online shopping based on item rather than store
  • More power to the user, less to a particular vendor
  • Bring together all the information from various sites into one dashboard

What do you think? Is this all crazy talk? How far away is all of this? Who will be the first to seize onto it (Apple, Google, a dark horse)? It will almost certainly be internet-based rather than software, so that already puts companies like Microsoft at a bit of a disadvantage. But it is anyone’s game. I want my personalized internet!

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4 Comments »

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  1. This is kind of like the policy/permission/access discussion that corporate IT deals with. Policy and single-sign-on passwords determine access to specific applications and data across the enterprise network… along with preferences, inclusion-exclusion, read-write, etc.

    RoboForm heads in this direction, but in a very limited way. That’s the kind of company that would be thinking along these lines. Of course, MS, Apple and Google should be, too. Security is the big issue – e.g. what happens when you forget to log out of the browser? I’m sure it could be figured out. Biometric mouse with timed log-out when not touched by person?

  2. these are great ideas and points. this would be a lot of data to be entered in by the user wouldn’t it? take the jean size and color pref. you would have to enter in that data (or choose from a web form.

    the main reasons i can think of that there are issues with are.

    1. too much “work” data entry for a user to put into this global knowledge in the browser. let’s face it, people are lazy about it.

    2. security like said above. you put all this data, what stores it? who’s server? what kind of access can these jean company websites have to your personal data? can they go into what foods you like or just stick to your color choices and jean size?

    3. competition. let’s just be blunt. business compete over your business. they don’t want to join up with other companies. facebook doesn’t want myspace to even exist and vice versa.

    i still like the idea and someday, probably google, will think of a global way for all this data to be housed and shared with an API. it would take a lot of thinking ahead of time IMO.

  3. I think the next browswer, one that truly gives the user what they want, will come out of the “semantic web”. This is technology that will allow computers themselves to put together information for a user so that they can find what they need. They will be closer to natural language processing than they’ve been, so you can ask for what you want in english, and the computer will give it to you, MIT has a project called SIMILIE that is working on it, and though I believe its going to take some time before the solution is implemented, we’re on our way there.

  4. This seems like a logical next step for google. They have the money to throw at a project like this and the savvy to introduce it to the marketplace in the right way. Like an extended profile preference in your gmail/google account. Sort of an extension of the .net passport which became Windows Live ID, but that was just for a universal login. Microsoft, unlike Google, doesn’t have the reach or cachet for global acceptance, and is too closely tied to the PC side (and for rushing OS to market too soon, i.e. Vista).

    In response to wargoo, the lazy user argument doesn’t hold in this case, because what is being proposed is from the potential user. If he wants to sit down and enter his consumer preferences then there ought to be a place for him to do that. Many who do not want to take the time simply won’t jump on the train, and that’s fine for them. It certainly wouldn’t be required of every user to enter the information. It would be an opt-in scenario.

    Security and privacy will be the biggest obstacle to this, because the technology certainly exists. The next massive hurdle/problem will be getting the vendor sites to set up the code that recognizes the information. And there must be a way for the user preferences to be encrypted (security) so the vendor sites can’t freely get/steal this information (privacy).

    Sign me up. I’d love not to have to enter this information every damn time I went to a web site to buy something, or if I went back a page and the prior search parameters were lost (so annoying). It is a great solution, but there must be a global approval of the idea if it’s to catch on and be adopted by the mainstream, and that will force the vendors to accept it a business as usual.


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