Archive for September 21st, 2009

Keeping “you” and “me” at the center of things

September 21st, 2009

A while back I wrote a post about Firefox that concluded with the idea that each one of us should be the center of our online lives — not a company, not an application, not a business plan. One common response has been: That sounds awesome, but how do we get there? Where do we start?

Well, no surprise — I start with the browser. The browser is the piece of the web that human beings interact with directly; it’s the tool through which people “touch” the web. I have an immense degree of control over my browser. With a website I have the degree of control the website chooses to offer. I am one of many users at a website, but the browser is mine.

These traits make the browser the logical tool for a user-centric (“you-centric” ??) world.

An early step was customizing the browser by hand, adding extensions, bookmarks, settings, themes and personas. More recently browsers have begun offering automated customization as well. For example, the Smart Location Bar (aka the “awesome bar”) automatically offers easy access to websites we’ve visited before, automatically tuning to each person’s browsing habits.

The awesome bar presents automated customization to the user. It aggregates information about my usage across many websites and presents the information back to me. It’s immensely helpful. One area to explore in building a user-centric web experience is other examples where this sort of automated customization would help the user. For example, perhaps knowing my own search history across many website would be helpful to me.

Another form of automated activity to explore is the presentation of customized or individual responses outward, to websites. For example, the browser could automate the current dysfunctional process of logging into and out of websites. There are unquestionably other things we do regularly that the browser can automate and run in the background. Sharing of information is becoming increasingly common. Perhaps the browser could automate response to certain types of requests. There are obviously privacy and control issues with sharing information. That’s why the browser — where I have the most control — is a logical choice.

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