Web Watch

Google Accommodates Search History Buffs

By Leslie Walker
Sunday, April 24, 2005

Don't take this personally, but Google wants your Web search history.

A new feature offered by the Internet search leader invites people to save and view all the Web searches they conduct at Google.

Launched in trial form Wednesday, Google's "my search history" is designed as a kind of Internet memory aid, giving people new ways to find information they previously saw online and to repeat previous searches.

The search history is an optional feature that requires people to sign in, so Google can store their searching histories online and make them available later from any computer where they might sign in. People who already have an e-mail address from Google's Gmail site or have registered at its Google Groups site can use those log-ins; anyone can also sign up for a new account (www.google.com/searchhistory).

This history feature is surprisingly detailed, showing not only what terms you entered into Google's search box before, but also which matching Web sites you clicked on, along with date and time stamps. A calendar view lets you browse through previous searches chronologically as well.

While Google tracks your searches whenever you are signed in, you can ask it to avert its gaze temporarily by clicking a "pause" button. You can also sign out entirely to stop all recording activity until you sign back in. A "remove items" button will erase all or some of your prior searches.

Google is far from the first Internet service to save people's searches, though it offers a few more choices with its implementation. Yahoo, America Online, Ask Jeeves and Amazon.com's A9.com also offer search history services.

All provide a basic ability to scan through prior search histories while people are signed in, allowing them to limit a new search for, say, "cave men" to all the previous pages Google has shown them in response to prior queries.

Skype Expands Internet Phone Service

Internet telecom carrier Skype Technologies has started selling phone numbers for $39 a year that ring through to subscribers' computers, wherever in the world they may be.

The new SkypeIn feature, also available for $13 for three months of use, lets users of Skype software take calls on their computers placed from traditional telephones. It can be purchased in eight countries -- the United States,Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Norway, Sweden and Britain.

A SkypeIn account includes up to three phone numbers with different area codes in the subscriber's home country, plus voice mail. Folks who call those numbers pay whatever long-distance fees their own phone carriers charge, even if the recipient takes the call on a laptop one or two continents away.

To date, Luxembourg-based Skype has been known mostly for enabling computer-to-computer calls, a free service that requires use of the company's Internet calling software at both ends. It also offers a paid service called SkypeOut that lets people place calls from computers to regular phones.

Skype has long been popular with international callers who talk frequently to people in other countries and want to cut their bills.


Opera 8 Takes the Web Stage

People fed up with Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser have a new option -- an updated version of the Opera Web browser, long admired by power users but considered too complicated by some Web novices.

The latest version, released Tuesday, offers tighter security and a simplified interface, although users can still customize Opera to take advantage of its many hidden features. Opera 8, developed by the Oslo company of the same name, also adds a new voice-browsing feature that can read aloud the text on Web pages.

Opera is free if people are willing to have ads displayed in the browser window; an ad-free version costs $39.


E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company