Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Internet Knows What You'll Do Next: The Database of Intentions

Mr. Battelle, a founder of Wired magazine and the Industry Standard, wasn't the first person to figure this out. But he did find a way to describe the digital crystal ball better than anyone else had. He called it "the database of intentions."

The collective history of Web searches, he wrote on his blog in late 2003, was "a place holder for the intentions of humankind — a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends."

"Such a beast has never before existed in the history of culture, but is almost guaranteed to grow exponentially from this day forward," he wrote. It was a nice idea, but for most of us it was just an abstraction. The search companies did offer glimpses into the data with bare-bones (and sanitized) rankings of the most popular search terms, and Yahoo sold more detailed information to advertisers who wanted to do a better job of selling their products online. But there was no way for most people to dig into the data themselves.

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