I’m being stalked by an oven. It’s actually very scary. We are in the process of planning an upgrade to our kitchen. It should be completed this century with a bit of luck. As part of this I’m searching for prices of various kitchen appliances, including the device you see above. However, now pretty much every web page I go to has an advert for this oven appearing on it. Something in the interwebs has cottoned on to the fact that I’m in the market for some cooking equipment and is tailoring what I see to suit. Most interesting.
Web pages are highly aware of the searches I’ve been doing. Last week there was a very good article in the paper about this kind of thing, which made the point that what you see on the web and when you search depends on what you have already looked for/at. This is not something that you might expect. It means that, far from allowing the web to expand your creativity and send you down new avenues, what really happens is that after a while the search tends to contract and focus down onto what the engines think you are interested in.
Discovering this hot in the heels of the presentation from Sir Tim Berners-Lee last Friday on his dream of an open and level playing field for all internet users makes me wonder if somewhere a battle has already been fought and lost.
I’m not sure if anonymous browsing would make a difference, or if search aggregators like duckduckgo.com would help. As someone said last week “If the service is free, you are the product”. That is how it is with search these days.