Are you bold enough to bare your browsing for all the Web to see?
Betting that the trend toward online exhibitionism isn't letting up anytime soon, a few new startups let you publicize your browsing history, while giving you a peek at where your friends click online, too.
As you surf through news stories, video clips and shopping sites, these services, which plug directly into your Web browser, allow you to share your "clickstream" with friends (or everyone, if you so choose), giving them the chance to check out the latest links to catch your eye. They also give you real-time access to your friends' online activity, letting you spot their favorite haunts and surprising finds.
In a world where Web surfers are cautioned to keep their personal data under tight wraps, asking users to willingly give up -– and broadcast -- their precious browsing history might seem like a tall order.
"Click-sharing is the natural next step in terms of what's been happening over the past couple of years," said Demetri Karagas, one of three co-founders of the New York-based Sitesimon.
Just as people know they can get place-specific, real-time deals and other helpful information when they share where they are on the location-based social network Foursquare, he said, people will realize that they'll get more out of their browsing if they share what they're looking at online.
"You'll be able to have a richer experience on the Web," Karagas said.
Open to select people on an invitation basis (he expects the site to open up to the public later this year), Sitesimon plugs into a Web browser and then tracks where you click on the Internet. Every news article scanned, video watched or Amazon item purchased ends up in a list of your online activity.
But you have full control of who gets to see your browsing history, and what it is they get to see, he said. You can choose to share your clickstream with specific friends or everyone, and you can "black list" certain websites to prevent them from showing up at all.
As you surf the Web, Sitesimon tracks your discoveries and awards points for sharing the newest, most interesting content. The site lists the top "trailblazers" in general but, Karagas said, will eventually reveal top influencers by category (humor, tech, entertainment, etc.) so that users can follow the people who unearth the information most interesting to them.
The whole point of the service is to help users discover content they wouldn't otherwise encounter and personalize their online experience. Sitesimon, which launched in October, has just a few thousand users and is still in its earliest phases, he said, but in the future, users could potentially get real-time Groupon-like deals based on their online search history.
Adam Leibsohn, founder of Voyurl, said, "[Click-sharing] is a nice way to bring serendipity back to the Web, because we're losing it."
His site, which launched last month to a select audience with the tagline, "It's OK to look," also shares users' clickstreams. But it provides a deeper level of detail to help users get a better handle on their own Web habits while letting them learn from the activity of others.