Contextual Web Players Help Users Personalize the Browser

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-01-07 Print this article Print

Iskold's vision is one of a contextual Web where you as the user can mash up the Web your way and personalize it within the context of your actions. That's why he and his team have created Glue, a Mozilla Firefox add-on that sits in the browser and recognizes books, music, movies, restaurants and other items users search for around the Web.

Once Glue identifies the thing it connects you with friends and other Glue users who visit the same thing around the Web. Glue creates a common bond between users within a Web browser without forcing users to, for example, log into Facebook and share behind a walled garden. Iskold and Adaptive Blue are not alone.

eWEEK spoke to Andraz Tori, CTO of Zemanta, a browser add-on for Firefox and Internet Explorer that lets publishers add relevant content to augment their blog posts.

As bloggers write their post, the Zemanta semantic engine gauges user's intent and suggests related stories (links). Using Zemanta, bloggers are able to instantly add relevant content to their blog posts, in turn creating a relevant Web experience for their users.

Tori, like Iskold, believes such contextual technologies are the future of Internet browsing. As more and more of these tools are deployed in browsers, users could be doing fewer Web searches because their browser will, to borrow Iskold's idea, "glue" everything together for users. Tori explained:

Contextual technologies are trying to make search unnecessary. If they succeed, there will be more situations where search can be avoided because agents can see what user is doing in advance and offer results. Contextual technologies are not entirely different from search, but a different way of delivering results to users.

Adaptive Blue and Zemanta are joined by Zentact whose Firefox add-on lets users import e-mail contacts and apply different tags that reflect their interests. Zentact co-browse the Web with users, offering in the browser to contact a person if it deems the page relevant based on the tags, explained Zentact co-founder Jared Brandt.
Another contextual Web warrior is Lijit, a search technology that lets Web surfers search your blog or Web site, or simply, you in your Web context. The company also makes Re-search, a widget that piggybacks on Google searches to provide additional results.

So you're now aware of startups innovating on the contextual Web. What about big players? Mozilla is arguably the contextual Web king, with efforts such as Ubiquity, which lets nontechnical Web users create mashups.

Yahoo and Google, as premier Web services providers, are uniquely positioned to create contextual Web experiences for users. Yahoo has gotten quite a jump here with SearchMonkey, which lets developers overlay contextual information on search results. The company has also opened up its Yahoo Mail platform to let programmers spruce up the Web app's social and collaboration features.


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