I got this week's Economist (meaning June 7-13th) on time ie the Wednesday afterwards, which is not bad for Tbilisi when sometimes it doesn't come at all. It came with the previous week's edition so it has taken me some time to catch up. I faced a difficult decision: whether to read the Technology Quarterly (one of my favourites) first or the EU Enlargement section in the earlier week's edition. In the end chronology won out and I read the Technology section with a leisurely Saturday lie-in and breakfast.
Some inconsistency in the content!
The first page begins with a review of controversial ad-targeting systems which monitor information about your browsing habits without asking you. This is a serious issue, not least because one of the noisiest proponents (no I don't see why I should give you free publicity) has a rather squalid history in its earlier life, whatever it says now.
Later on we find a review of new internet products to help with navigation on the web. I will name this one, because of what I found. It's called Hyperwords, comes free, and seems to be a sort of research project by a Norwegian computer scientist, though the agreement you have to sign before using it looked American and they have an office in London.
Before I downloaded the software (it only works with Firefox at the moment) I read the reviews on Firefox and found I had stumbled on another of these products that send information about what you are doing online. The balance of the reviews seems to be favourable so I downloaded it. Seems to work OK, looking up links instantly on a right-click. It's a bit like Snapshot, but set by you not the author of the page, so you can choose anything on the page and click, not just the hyperlinks built in.
It seems the Economist reviewer did not read other reviews or think it worth to mention that the software is also monitoring what you are doing. On the Firefox Download page, there are 57 reviews including:
Hyperwords says this:
Please note that we only track commands and not your words or websites. So do not worry. If you have any queries please Skype me: fleurski
The Hyperwords Company
A recent (enthusiastic) user says this:
Ehh... so it phones home anonymous usage information. You use google right? Well.. there ya go. If you google, you're also phoning home usage information. -- I still don't figure why this is a big concern for most people as this information (for the most part) is used to better how information is provided to our browsing experience in the "Grand Scheme" of things... blah!
Another user said:
I got suspicious when I noticed the url that results from a Google search. I was wondering if this url was tracking a referral from Hyperwords. When I tried to delete the standard Google search that comes with this add-on and create my own custom Google search, I got a message saying I can only use the standard Google search. So, I am convinced that Hyperwords has a relationship with at least some of the sites that come standard with this add-on and perhaps gets some financial reimbursement based on the number of referrals. I avoid add-ons that I believe have built-in financial incentives to the authors to send me to a particular site. I know that many web pages make money from referrals and that is a big part of business on the web, but I don't want my browser itself to be commercialized in that way.
Otherwise the reviews are rather enthusiastic (meaning rave).
From the right-click on ANY group of words on a page you can search, find a reference on Wikipedia, translate (into a rather limited set of languages for my purposes), convert currencies (ditto), blog (ditto). However I can see lots of times I could use it, just to find information "inpage" or "inmenu" like Snapshots without leaving the page you are on.
For example the right-click blog menu allows you to blog the selection, search for blog posts about it on a range of sites like Technorati, and subscribe to RSS through several RSS newsreaders, including Netvibes, which is not always included. The right-clicking seems to be not always compatible with other Firefox add-ons like ScribeFire which I am using now, but it works fine on other pages I have tried.
So see what you think.