Monday, April 03, 2006

Claria and PersonalWeb

Claria, a company infamous for unpleasant adware products, apparently is trying to move into personalization of content.

Mario Sgambelluri interviews Claria EVP/CMO Scott Eagle about Claria's plans. Some excerpts:
PersonalWeb [brings] the content that a user wants together in one place -- creating a customized web page based on their online interests -- automatically and anonymously.

PersonalWeb learns what topics an individual user is interested in ... [and] recommends new content that matches their interests -- content they may never have discovered otherwise.

As personal interests and favorite websites change over time, the PersonalWeb page also changes -- remaining totally personalized with content relevant to each individual consumer.

PersonalWeb creates a customized home page tailored to a user's unique interests -- automatically. There is nothing for a user to set up or maintain.

Less than 10 percent of consumers take the time to manually configure or personalize a home page. Our internal research shows that the other 90 percent want the benefits of personalization but either don't know how, are too busy to bother, or feel that the page will become outdated if they don't continually update their preferences.

With so much happening online in terms of the vast amount of content available to discover, it can be difficult for consumers to easily find and enjoy the content most relevant to them. The solution is technology that understands your ever-changing interests and automatically brings you what you like most.
Reading this interview, I have two reactions.

On the one hand, it good to see enthusiasm for personalization of content and information. Scott Eagle is saying that personalization can help readers find interesting content they wouldn't find on their own, all without any effort. The focus on the reader and helping the reader is promising.

On the other hand, I am concerned to see this interest in personalization from a company with a reputation for developing intrusive adware products. I am worried that having a known adware vendor working in personalization of information could push users toward distrusting all personalized websites, setting back development in the field for years.

See also articles on Claria PersonalWeb in BusinessWeek, New York Times, SiliconBeat, and TechDirt.


Anonymous said...

To me, this is one of the big downsides of personalization. If you are going to let someone know all these intimate details about you and your habits and browsing, you're probably going to want to trust them. Who do you trust? And when? And why? And what recourse do you have, when the company gets bought, and you no longer trust the new owners, but they still have all your data?

Again, on the other side of things, the CACM for this month has a whole issue dedicated to the "tools" side of search -- the opposite of personalization position that I espouse. Diane Crawford, the editor, nails down the issue when she writes:

Online search is part of daily life, with popular search engines and digital libraries typically supporting users best able to define their information needs. The hitch comes when those needs are sketchy or the knowledge necessary is absent. How do users find the information they need if they don’t know it exists? How do they formulate an effective query? How do they steer their way through a complex site to find what they are looking for?

While I agree that personalization could be a useful alternative to formulating an effective query, the problem comes about with effective query formulation for information needs for which there is no personalization history. At that point, effective steerage and navigation tools are extremely valueable.

She continues: Search tools must evolve as user requirements evolve from using search for lookup to using it to learn, investigate, and explore.

It is quite interesting to see an entire CACM issue dedicated to these matters.

zmanzero said...

whooee. snowballs would survive in hell before i'd trust claria with my info. weren't they gator not so long ago? *shivers*