Personalization has been a constantly growing topic in the world of the Internet, and future growth shows no signs of slowing.  Many websites use personalized applications to give the user a more direct experience.  I have encountered many of these websites and applications, and use them on a daily basis to make the web my own.  Some examples include the streaming music site pandora.com suggesting new songs based on user-supplied ratings of related songs, and sites such as myweather.com personalizing weather forecasting based on a user-supplied mailing address.

This personalization takes a greater leap on mobile devices that enable GPS location, giving applications such as goby and poynt the power to tell the user what is nearby and how to get there, from food and entertainment to the nearest gas station.

Privacy issues limit this personalization however, and with the looming identity theft threat, providing this personal information can be a scary thing.  Another issue with personalization questions the algorithms that lead us where they think we want to go.  Just because I purchased a Blu-ray player on amazon.com doesn’t mean that I need the box set of Seinfeld Blu-ray discs that the last person bought, even if I get 20% off for bundling them!  To the same regard there is great danger of “over-personalization” giving users tunnel-vision, limiting their exposure to things that don’t fall inside of the box that the algorithms have drawn for them.  This eliminates exposure to new ideas and products that users could be interested in, even if they don’t match the “typical” user that purchases these products.

In the gray area of the future that this personalization presents to us, some of the bright spots include using semi-personal data to provide us with an artistic user experience (thewildernessdowntown.com), as well as linking social media sites such as facebook.com to login credentials on other sites, eliminating the need for additional password databases that can be hacked and manipulated.  As long as the dark corners of the future can be eliminated or at the very least avoided, we can improve our browsing experience, and make this thing we call the Internet ours.