Rogers Sportsnet launched its new MySportsnet.ca site today, which is a highly personalized site for sports fans. MySportsnet.ca automatically customizes the content on the website depending on the user’s behaviour. For example, if the user reads a lot about hockey they will get more content related to hockey on their homepage. The same personalization can also be applied to on-site advertising based on the user’s interests.
The site reminded me of a conversation last year about the real growth opportunities online being in the Implicit Web. For most websites today, you need to be explicit – you generally answer a number of questions during registration and setup; you often have to tell the site what you want and how you want to see things going forward. For many users this level of customization is not practical and creates a barrier to them using the technology. RSS readers and social network sites run into this challenge where users don’t see a real benefit from the site until they invest a lot of time importing their information. Facebook does a good job of allowing users to find friends from their personal email accounts like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo.
Where websites can create an Implicit experience it can be very powerful. For example, when you buy a Harry Potter book on Amazon.com it automatically suggests other books that you might like. This is based on user behaviour that Amazon.com aggregates to create recommendations for the user. The user does not need to explicitly search for similar books or try to find other titles by the author. This is a great example of the Implicit Web Experience.
MySportsNet.ca is a great example of the experiences that are possible with Implicit Web and the balance we’ll need to create with privacy as we develop these experiences.