18 Months of Google Web History

Okay, today’s agenda is very simple - describe Web History using my account as an example, then give my personal opinion on its usefulness. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

First off, the brief introduction to Google Web History. Basically, Google records all searches made by anyone logged in with a Google account (johndoe @ gmail.com). For instance, if I search for “downtown cafe ottawa”, Google will store that in Web History. If I then click on a few of the results, Google will store which ones I visited. Of course, I have to be logged in to Google for any of this to happen.

Good? Bad? That’s for another paragraph. Until then, if I want to view my searches for some reason, maybe to remember a particular result of that search, I simply visit google.com/history. Tada, every single search I’ve made since, in my case, June 2007, along with which results I clicked on. Plus, every single image, video, map, book, blog, and news search I’ve made too.

Hmm, I’ve done 18894 searches? It sounds like a lot, so I pick a month and go back to early December 2007. Oh, of course, I was doing research for that crazy history essay, and the searches reflect that. For instance, “council trent summary”, “anathema”, and “footnote style”. Later I was apparently studying for my Java final. I asked Google about things like “java 6 docs” and “ascii character table.”

What’s really terrifying is that I remember actually typing a lot a fair number of these queries! The math is also surprising: 18994 searches over 18 months is 1,055 a month or 35 a day. I’ve hit 150+ a few times, and rarely drop to zero.

One last point of interest is the “Trends” view, which you can get to by a link on the left of the page. You’ll see lists of your top searches as well as three really cool bar graphs showing your usage by month, day, and hour. Here are mine:

Google Web History Trends

That hourly graph is the best, I think - there’s a really definite pattern there. But…this is getting pretty long now, so I’m going to wrap up. Personally, I think the graphs and other trend tools are neat, but not worth the un-privacy factor of giving Google literally a picture of my life 35 times a day. The reason I’ve kept this going for 18 months is for these graphs, but now I have them, so I’m quitting. Are you? Say why or why not in a comment below.