Sunday, April 29, 2007

Impressed with Google's manage History feature

It's been a few months since my last post -- I got sidetracked off my NCover tutorial I was trying a few months back. (Incidentally, my project desperately needs NCover, so I'll finally get a chance to jump back into that game).

Ages ago, I relied exclusively on the Google Toolbar in Internet Explorer. But when I realized that big-brother was analyzing every move I made, I got a bit creep'd out so I uninstalled the bugger. The heavy influence of FireFox and it's built-in search toolbar (CTRL+K) made enough impact that I've never looked back.

However, a lot of things have changed in the Internet landscape as well as my personal lifestyle in the last few years: Google Analytics and GMail have rolled into my digital life and even this blog now uses my Google Account. I've come to know of Google's "Do no evil" motto, which has relaxed some of my concerns that gradually, behind the scenes, they are collecting my information without requiring me to install software. Now that I'm using my Google Account for so many things, all my FireFox searches in the last 15 months (bless'ed CTRL+K) have quietly been captured. Although I've seen my searches appearing on my personalized homepage, I haven't been that concerned: at least I know what Google knows about me.

Today I noticed Google's new "Manage History" feature, which required me to install the Google Toolbar before using it. Although I installed the toolbar with some reluctance, I am wildly surprised with the manage history feature. Not only can I view my search history, but I can also selectively edit any item -- it's my data!

Google tells me that I've done waay too many searches, and it tells me what I clicked on per search. It provides trend information on my usage: monthly, by day, by hour. (FYI: I do more searches in January, Thursdays are most popular, and I've never searched for anything between 1 and 5 am) It can tell me the top ten search queries in the last week, month, year or all time.

I can view my history in terms of web, news, images, sponsored links -- even Google Maps and Video. Even scarier: it can offer links that I might be interested in based on my previous usage.

What also seems interesting is that Google is providing bookmark functionality -- a competing feature to online bookmark services such as

What would be really interesting is to be able to cross reference this history to my activity elsewhere -- the topics in my inbox, the tasks or projects I was working on at that time.

Also -- if Google could have tracked my history using my google-account then why did I need the Toolbar in order to use the history feature?