Press "Enter" to skip to content and the Implicit Web


Rogers Sportsnet launched its new site today, which is a highly personalized site for sports fans. 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 it automatically suggests other books that you might like.  This is based on user behaviour that 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.

The challenge as a marketer with the Implicit Web is respecting user privacy.  In many cases it’s only possible to create an Implicit Experience by gathering a lot of user data and this creates a privacy concern.  The easiest solution to have a clear privacy policy, avoid capturing personally identifiable information, and allow users to opt-out where practical. does a good job of handling these concerns.  The site is powered by a desktop application (PC only) that is used to track the content you read online.  The application privacy policy states that it doesn’t capture personal information and the application can be easily turned off and un-installed.  After running it this morning and watching the site update as I read more about the Toronto Maple Leafs than the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s easy to see how this can be a powerful experience.  My only complaint was that the website wasn’t available at all when I closed the desktop application or if I used a different PC. 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.


  1. Tim
    Tim June 21, 2007

    Fair enough. But who really wants to use a web site where they need to download something first? Why is it that only Canadian media companies come up with these hair-brained ideas? While those who choose to download might a get rich experience I would suspect they’d lose 90% of their potential audience by taking this approach.

  2. Alan Armstrong
    Alan Armstrong June 22, 2007

    I like the term Implicit Web, and I agree, there is a lot of potential here … designers should take this idea and run with it.
    One thing I’ve found about these learning engines: I have different moods, and my behavior depends on my moods. So sometimes I’m in the mood for classical music, other times I’m looking for Led Zeppelin, and when I’m in one mood, I don’t want to see the other stuff. Also sometimes I browse amazon for business, other times for spirituality, other times for my kids books.
    Then we get into the whole issue of that browsing that some people do (not me of course) that they would rather not be implied … in the rest of their browsing experience. I read that 24% of men look for pornography on the internet, while the other 76% are liars.
    Anyway I still think that the concept is right: the system should learn from the user behavior, subject to some caveats.
    Next week in my blog, I will be publishing a piece that gets at this issue from a different angle. The link will work next Friday … sorry it’s not available now.
    Keep writing!

  3. Jeff Lancaster
    Jeff Lancaster June 22, 2007

    Hmmm – what site doesn’t have a ‘My’ version now.
    The level of personalization on the web these days is truly impressive from a programming perspective, but I am starting to wonder about the real usefulness of it all.

  4. Colin Pape
    Colin Pape June 22, 2007

    A desktop application – are you kidding me??
    Wow – that’s lame…

  5. Mike
    Mike November 28, 2007

    I had high hopes when I first heard about MySportsnet. Then once I found out about it being a client-side app, I was immediately turned off.

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