Thursday, February 08, 2007

Google Book Bar and News Bar

Philipp Lenssen reports on two new little widgets from Google, the Book Bar and the News Bar. Both are pieces of Javascript that let you show on your website a selection of books or news based on a keyword search.

The Book Bar reminds me of the Recommended Product Links of Amazon Associates. Using that, you can also show books (and other products) that match specific keywords or categories. Unlike the Google Book Bar, Amazon's widget pays you for sales generated through the widget.

The News Bar reminds me of the News Widgets (category and zip only) or the keyword search and other widgets of Findory Inline.

Looking at this, what I think would be really cool would be if Google's Book Bar and News Bar self-optimized based on usage of the widget, much like Google AdSense does.

I could imagine two ways of doing that. One would be to adapt to usage of the widget on a particular site. For example, if I put Google Book Bar on my site, the books picked might depend on what books people click on in the Google Book Bar on my site as well as using aggregate information across all sites.

Another would be to personalize the selection of books or news articles to interests of each viewer based on their individual history. For example, the items in your Google search history could influence the news items you see if you view the widget on some weblog. The news personalization in Google Sidebar (part of Google Desktop Search) already does something much like this, featuring news articles based on your past behavior. Amazon Omakase is a good example of a books widget that makes recommendations based on your past behavior, in this case based on your purchase and clickstream history at

Findory has some examples that approach some of these ideas as well. For example, the book ads in the upper left corner of the Findory home page are targeted based on each reader's history as well as the content of the page. Findory Inline allows you to "personalize" the selection of articles shown in the Javascript widget, though that personalizes based on your reading history on Findory, not the behavior of everyone (or to each individual) who sees your widget.

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