Google search gets personal

In move to outdo rivals, search giant offers custom accounts that let people search their personal query history.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
Google on Wednesday will begin to offer people custom accounts to search over their personal query history, in a move to outdo rivals and endear Web surfers.

The search king will unveil My Search History, another of its experimental services that takes a page from long-standing "My" programs from Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and others. However, unlike typical personal portal services, such as customized stocks and headlines, Google's feature will focus exclusively on archiving personal search histories for later recall.

"We have a relationship with our users, and extending the depth of that relationship to provide more information" will be beneficial to them, said Alan Eustace, a vice president of engineering at Google.

The company's search history feature lags those of many rivals, including Yahoo, Ask Jeeves and Amazon.com's A9.com. Analysts say that has been a previous weakness for the No. 1 search provider in a heated race to innovate. Google has offered a similar history feature for its downloadable desktop software, but this is a first for Web access.

"Even though Google is a little bit late, it's great to have this finally added to the service," said Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch. "Having this kind of feature has become a requirement for all the search engines in the last year."

Google's new service will search the full text of Web pages viewed from a query list; show related records of search history; and show a graphical calendar of consumers' search activity on any given day. Most importantly, the service will automatically integrate with Web search so that once people have signed up and logged on they can view their personalized history alongside general information from the Web.

Addressing consumer privacy, Google said that search history data is password-protected and stored securely on its servers. People also can pause search tracking or remove records from their history.

Still, the new Google account will tap into the "cookie," or data file, already associated with an individual's computer, which could make previously anonymous searching part of a broader search profile.

"It's not that much different from what the others (are) doing," Sullivan said. "But it may reawaken people to the fact that there are search privacy issues."