The State of Recommendation

Sometimes, my ego gets the better of me when I read an article like this. I morph into an immature teenager and must resist the urge to whine, “But I said that first!” I suppose I’ll take the path of a modern adult and blog about it instead – the 21st century method of whining, if you will.

Back in July of 2007, I wrote a market analysis for The Guidewire Report, snappily titled “You Can’t Spell Internet Without an ‘I’.” In it, I posited that the growing sector of recommendation “might very well be Web 3.0,” that “the era of the one-size-fits-all Web page was over” and the current Internet was being transformed into “an individually customizable Web.” If I really wanted to feed my ego, I could tell it that the Guardian writer was inspired by my lyrical prose. But of course I wasn’t the first to hypothesize that Web 3.0 is about personalization and recommendation and I won’t be the last.

At the time, Aggregate Knowledge, Loomia, and VortexDNA received mention as movers in the space. Since then, Aggregate Knowledge seems to have dropped off the radar a bit, while companies like Matchmine and Seethroo have offered their own takes on recommendation, as well as a fascinating service called Strings.

It’s timely I saw this article today, as I had just spoken with David Marks at Loomia about its new service, SeenThis. Loomia wasn’t content to sit in the recommendation space, offering solutions solely to publishers and retailers (though they’re not abandoning those efforts). The company wanted to explore the end user more, and not just by throwing a free app up and hoping to attract ad sales. SeenThis points the sector in a new direction, melding content recommendations with social networks in a non-invasive manner.

Launched last Wednesday on CNET, Wall Street Journal and NBC.com, SeenThis allows participating users to see what content their friends, groups, and networks on Facebook are viewing. The kicker is that the service is exclusively opt-in, so friends must give consent that SeenThis can track their viewing habits. While group viewing habits are listed on the page, i.e., members of the Barack Obama group read these articles, individual friends remain anonymous. So I would see that six of my Facebook friends read the article on Super Tuesday, for example, but wouldn’t know the specific names of friends.

Marks characterizes SeenThis as a bridge between content and social networks. I think it’s an important step in bringing recommendations from behind the curtain and putting it in the hands of users. As I concluded in my initial analysis for Guidewire Group:

As the sector matures, individuals will have more control over their online experience. Rather than following links, the links will follow them to the application and environment of their choice. Once the competitive landscape settles out… discovery and recommendation will no longer be tech buzzwords; they’ll be the industry standard by which all Internet content and commerce are delivered.

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