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Net surfers can backtrack with Backflip

A new site is letting Net users retrace their steps as they navigate the Web.

A new site is letting Net users retrace their steps as they navigate the Web.

Launched Monday, Backflip offers a free way for Web surfers to keep track of and get back to content they've seen on the Web, helping users search the text of every page they've laid eyes on within a given time frame.

As first reported, Backflip, founded by former Netscape employees Tim Hickman, Backflip's chief executive, and Chris Misner, vice president of business development, aims to stand out with its technology for automatically categorizing pages that users choose to "backflip" through.

The technology is the product of 15 years of research performed at Stanford University at the behest of the CIA, Misner said. The service provides users with a list of the top 10 pages they visit and lets them upload bookmarks into their categories.

Backflip isn't the first site to help users create their own personal directories of Web sites. HotLinks, for one, offers a similar service.

But even if the field becomes crowded, Backflip expects demand for such a service to be strong, citing internal research showing 26 percent of Web searches to be for pages a user has already seen.

As for making money, Backflip will pursue an advertising and sponsorship model much like those that the major search and directory sites have followed. In addition, Backflip will be able to use the data gleaned from users' surfing and "backflipping" behavior to aggregate valuable information about interests and surfing patterns.

Backflip will pursue partnerships with search and other content sites, Misner said.

"We view our service as complementary to the search engines," Misner said. "And we'll pursue a partnership strategy with the goal of being everywhere people would want to use it."

Misner said he expects content sites will be eager to partner with Backflip with the hope that users will return to that content site's pages.

Investors in Backflip include 21st Century Internet Venture Partners and Ron Conway of Angel Investors. Board members include Jennifer Bailey, former senior vice president at Netscape; 21st Century's Neil Weintraut; and Conway.