Google Wants Your Web History

A new effort from Google could raise the ire of those concerned about Google's growing reach: the company wants to track and store every Web page you visit. The feature, called Web History, is an expanded version of the company's previous Search History offering.

The idea of Web History is to enable Google Account users to look back through everything they've viewed on the Internet, be it search results, Web pages, images, or multimedia content such as video. Every URL will be stored and indexed within Google's massive infrastructure so users don't have to keep a history on their PC.

"Imagine being able to search over the full text of pages you've visited online and finding that one particular quote you remember reading somewhere months ago. Imagine always knowing exactly where you saw something online, like that priceless YouTube video of your friend attempting to perform dance moves from a bygone age," wrote Personalization product manager Payam Shodjai on the Google Blog.

In addition, Web History will enable Google to personalize search results based on what you've searched for in the past and what Web sites you visited. While results won't change immediately, Google says they should "steadily improve" over time.

For privacy reasons, Web History is not activated by default, and Google is not storing the histories for all account holders without their permission. However, the company is planning to encourage users to sign up for the new service, which utilizes the Google Toolbar for tracking.

The Google Toolbar is a cross-platform Web browser plug-in that has the capability to send details of the sites you are visiting back to Google. But that only happens if the Toolbar's PageRank Meter feature is enabled, which it is not by default. When signing up for Google's Web History service, the feature is then enabled.

"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," added Shodjai. "It's your slice of the Web, at your fingertips."

Such Web histories will be a treasure trove of information for Google, which can mine the data to determine all sorts of details about its users. It may additionally prove valuable for the search giant's advertising business, which was recently bolstered by the acquisition of DoubleClick - targeted ads can now draw on not only past searches, but also Web sites users visit.

Interested Google Account holders can sign up for Web History by visiting google.com/history.

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