Google Offers New 'Web History' Service

Dennis Faas's picture

Recently, Google announced the launch of a new feature for its web users: Web History. The new project offers Google account users the opportunity to access their Web surfing history.

A posting on the Official Google Blog touted the new feature as making it easy for Google users to "view and search across the pages ... 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". (Source:

People who have a Google account can access the Web History data by logging in with their user ID and password (the same account used for other Google services including Gmail). To be able to track their surfing history, the user must have the Google toolbar installed in their browser and must enable PageRank.

Google's Payam Shodjai, Product Manager for Personalization explains the service:

"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. Better yet, imagine having this wealth of information work for you to make searching for new information easier and faster." (Source:

Google's new Web History feature replaces Search History, which only allowed users to view former Web search inquiries and results. The new tool, besides giving users the opportunity to browse through anything they have visited on the Web, also compiles usage trends. The usage trends display which sites are visited the most at specific times of the day. The Web History tool also features usage stats on which Google Adsense ads the person has clicked on.

Data collected using Web History is only used to "improve your search experience."

"Google promises that this data will not be made available to third parties except in aggregate form or to comply with legal processes, as per their existing privacy policy. As such, the existence of Google Web History does not change anything in terms of what information Google is collecting from its Toolbar users. Indeed, any web site on the Internet can collect usage information from its visitors by the use of cookies and IP tracking." (Source:

Still, although Google does have a privacy policy in place to protect your information, this new feature is taking heat from some critics as being too Orwellian.

Says Mark Evans, VP of Operations at b5media: "In theory, the ability to look back at all the places you've been on the Web is a fascinating concept. It's like look at a digital album showing every place you've been over the years, and how your surfing habits have changed. If this is something you're curious about, check out Google History. While I can see the benefit of having easy access to you Web history, somehow the idea that Google has a database of everywhere I've been seems very 1984/Big Brother-ish." (Source:

To learn more about Google's Web History, log onto the Google History website:

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