Yahoo, Mozilla and several startups have created browser plugins or widgets to help define the contextual Web, where users can derive greater intelligence and value from their Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome Web browsers.
Adaptive Blue, Zemanta, Lijit and Zentac are all fostering such technologies. Google has dabbled in the contextual Web for Gmail, but when will Google make Chrome contextual for users?
While companies struggle with keeping costs down during the recession, programmers tired of being bound by social networks and other walled destination sites will have their heads down building tools to make our Web browsing experience more intuitive and efficient.
Welcome to the contextual Web, a world in which technologies sit in, bolt on or plug into the browser or Web site, monitor a Web surfer’s activity and make recommendations or draw connections for a user who might otherwise be oblivious to them.
This is a world where Yahoo is already dabbling with efforts like SearchMonkey, and it is an area Google may look to play in through its ChromeWeb browser. Yet Google has been strangely hush-hush about its Web browser extension plans.
Cutting-edge startups have not been so quiet. Programmers like Alex Iskold, founder and CEO of Adaptive Blue, are helping to foster this vision of the contextual Web. Iskold told eWEEK that in the contextual Web, users will do a Google search once and receive additional information from a browser or Web site. Iskold explained:
After search, the computer would understand what you’re looking at and what you’re intent might be. Let’s say I’m searching for a book. A lot of people will just Google the book name and they would end up on Amazon. Once you end up on Amazon, what if you wanted to do more? Look at the book, find more books by the author, comparison shop, share with friends, there is a limited set of actions to what you would do. At some point in the future, we will do less searching. The circumstance when you’ve arrived at the page and then you said now I have to go to Google and do more searching – that use case is going to be reduced.
There are some enormous challenges in front of the contextual Web. Today’s Web sites are geared to keep you locked in to do one particular function, and they want you to do that in their context. Web sites, such as Facebook’s famous walled garden of 150 million users are silos.
Say you find a movie on Amazon’s IMDB.com movie database. You can watch trailers sanctioned by that site, but what if you wanted to see related clips about that movie on YouTube? IMDB.com does not allow this. Or, say you find a DVD on Amazon.com. There isn’t a button for you to rent that selection from Netflix.com.
But what if you could, without waiting for the cross-licensing deals to kick in? Browser technologies, aided by technologies such as Greasemonkey, which lets programmers manipulate the HTML code of Web pages, help make this happen.