Web Genome Project offers Web search alternative

Google, separately, debuts interest-based advertising

A New Zealand company called VortexDNA has launched the Web Genome Project as an alternative way to search the Web.

The Web Genome Project is marketing itself as a private way for end users to find content tailored to their preferences and personalities. Participating in the project is free of charge.

The Web Genome Project creates a numerical profile -- dubbed a genome -- for each Web page based on the aggregate genomes of their visitors. As genomes are generated for more Web pages, a virtual topography of the Web is created. End users can use this topography to find sites that share their genomes.

So far, the Web Genome Project has created genomes for 500,000 Web pages -- a small fraction of the Internet's trillion Web pages.

Users who want to participate install the Web Genome Project extension, complete a survey to create an initial genome, and then browse the Web normally. With the Web Genome Project, users aren't being followed around the Web by a tracking mechanism like Google's new interest-based advertising cookie.

Vortex DNS, which created the Web Genome Project, says it is not collecting personally identifiable information about end users.

The Web Genome Project announcement comes on the heels of news from Google about its new interest-based advertising technique, which places ads next to a content search based on a user's previous searches.

Google will track a user's searches over time to identify categories of interest, such as sports, gardening, cars or pets. Google will provide the user with ads in these categories.

Google says its goal is to make ads more relevant, but privacy advocates worry about Google using a cookie to track a user's Web browsing patterns.

Google says it is addressing these privacy concerns by allowing users to view, delete or add interest categories through their browsers. End users can opt out of interest-based ads through a browser plug in.

Google made interest-based advertising available through its AdSense partner network and YouTube as a beta test.

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Carolyn Duffy Marsan

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