It'd be great to have an app that remembered how you found cool stuff online


34 Responses to “It'd be great to have an app that remembered how you found cool stuff online”

  1. MisterH4x0r says:

    There’s more than enough browsing habit tracking going on in the world…we don’t need another. The last thing we need is another way to make our privacy vulnerable. I also don’t want to make it easier for Joe Policeman, should he ever want to find out what I’ve been looking at. In theory, the idea is cool…not a new one…but you can’t ignore the possibility of this being exploited.

  2. Max Fenton says:

    I disagree. This is totally brillz.

  3. Max Fenton says:

    I’ve been playing for a week with which is one tiny step in this direction.

  4. Would solve that problem of when I tell someone an interesting piece of random information, and they ask me, “where’d you find that?” and all I can say is… “uh… the internet?”

  5. CharredBarn says:

    Pathway was a little program that allowed you to do something like this, but only the wikipedia domain. As you jumped from link to link within wikipedia, it would created a kind of map of where you’d been. For Mac, and it’s several years old now. Plus the download link is dead.

    Update: still available at, and appears to launch and run on Snow Leopard. Cool idea, and would be nice to see something like this for the web at large.

  6. I remember something about bloggers blogging from balloons and wearing goggles, but no idea who said what, or why, or about whom.  Is that the kind of thing we mean?  

    Seriously though, I need an app to bookmark all the cool things I see (not just on BB) to show folks.

    Browsers don’t really cut it for bookmarks do they?

    and Yes, I know there’s an obligatory xkcd for this, as there is for most things in life.

  7. Lexica says:

    I want a “Now where did I read that?” button for my keyboard. Even if I didn’t remember how I got there, at least I’d know where there was.

  8. James Kimbell says:

    I think that if I knew that my path to a piece of information was being recorded externally, then I would feel free to not even try to remember it internally. And I think that’s good. I could focus on whatever cool thing I’m looking at, without being distracted by thoughts of how I’m going to find it again later, or recall who led me to it and thank them, etc.

  9. Doug Nelson says:

    Just have each URL you visit recorded (locally and encrypted, thank you), and a
    utility app with a timeline slider that will play back a slideshow of your pages
    from x to y. You could add filters (show only pages from, etc.).
    Easy peasy.

    • MrJM says:

      That doesn’t look very peasy to me.

    • Jamie Sue says:

      That’s not bad.  Except I would add the ability to limited recorded sites to sites visited for more than X seconds and expand the filter to common search terms.

      In the options I would set time to… say… 10 seconds.  If I’ve looked at a page for more than ten seconds it becomes part of the URL record.  Then I could use the search term “paper lantern”.  It would load a slideshow of pages featuring that term.  Knowing how I am that would lead to the pages of paper lantern crafts that I liked the best, because those that I didn’t like wouldn’t have gotten 10 seconds of my attention.  Then I could browse through the images and select the page that reminds me of what I want.

      Now, give me the ability to highlight individual or large blocks of images and delete them with ease and you’ve got an app I would download.

      • Doug Nelson says:

        I like your “time viewed” filter.

        If the option to store the data remotely was added (and I’ll admit to being uneasy about that), we could have the ability to follow the path of how other people got to a given page. Or even statistically averaged paths (most popular, 2nd most popular, etc.).

        Oh, and I’d like an optional tree view with thumbnails of pages and direction lines. Both just for reviewing my own history and to see how others travelled.

        Lots of potentially interesting sites to be found if this was available. And lots of money to be made by someone if enough people can stomach the online storage version. I’d like to see other’s paths, though I doubt I’d contribute my own.

        This would be a boon to many long-tail sites that count on views for revenue.

  10. ahecht says:

    Back in 2004 or so I used a Firefox extension called “How’d I Get Here” which did exactly what you ask for. Unfortunately Firefox 3 broke the extension, and it was never updated.

    “Tab History Redux” is what I currently use. It makes new tabs inherit their history from the parent tab.

  11. franko says:

    pandora’s box. you can’t have it both ways, i’m afraid.

  12. tmdpny says:

    This is exactly what I use Evernote for.  I read or see something cool online, I web clip it, and the associated evernote record records the URL automatically.  I don’t leave home without it!  :)

  13. All that is needed is to grab some quantity of your history when you bookmark something. Store the data with your bookmark. Have a button on the bookmark to the effect of “Show how I got here” to display the history. An extension for moz you could do while standing on your head and whistling Dixie.

  14. Bad Juju says:

    Microfilm = coolest thing in the library til Usenet showed up.

  15. waetherman says:

    In such a system, BoingBoing would be the Kevin Bacon of websites.

  16. teapot says:

    Some points:
    Brent: Nice.
    Zan: You can install multiple versions of Firefox to continue using addons you liked. Not so practical in this case, though.

    Personally, I believe the best way is to remember a few keywords of whatever it is that you liked. Chances are that if you found it once you will again. Favicons also make the job of trawling history much easier, so webdesigners: be sure to include them in the sites you build!

  17. Cypher386 says:

    Firefox addon “Voyage” is close to what you want.  It creates a visual map of sites browsed, and the links you took between them.  All the information that is needed is already stored in the browser history, so there are no new privacy issues.  With Firefox “Sync” browser history can be shared across multiple computers.  (This might be a security issue for you.)  The addon didn’t work for a long time so I stopped using it.

  18. AC Missias says:

    There used to be a Firefox plug-in called “How did I get here?” which would at least track the history of the tab you’re in, and/or what page you linked to the current page from (if in a new tab or whatever), which was great for blog acknowledgements, but of course it didn’t track the greater wandering history that you might be looking for.  (and, sadly, it didn’t make the upgrade from Firefox 2.something.)

  19. vicx says:

    Yeah this is the kind of thing I’d like. I love the idea of a bookmark triggering a lookback.

  20. erin jones says:

    At this point in my relationship with the interwebs (designing interactive products since 1990), I rarely download and install new widget-y apps b/c I’m just, well, tired. So I have been using a combination of “Add to iPhoto library,” and self-generated notes when necessary, to track my history. 

    I use my browsing history as a sort of journal: It is certainly very important to me and it provides fodder for both my writing/art and for the purpose of self-analysis.

    But I’m a bit embarrassed about how hack my solution is. Maybe I’ll do some research and adopt a better solution. Although, now that I’m thinking about it, I have about 10 years of history using this system that’s archived on HDs and it hasn’t failed me yet. I have about 14 years of Amazon wish list info that provides a record of my research over time. If it ain’t broke?


  21. lerevdr says:

    Does anyone remember kottke’s article on Wikipedia Contrails?


    Le Rev Dr

  22. LeftyX says:

    A webcam “a little larger than a walnut”? Like this?

  23. Wow, someone pointed me to this one in a comment on my blog, I wrote about this 5 days ago. I called it “referral feature” and did a mockup:

    I didn’t know the Firefox plugin mentioned above, I wish there was one for Chrome!

  24. Daniel says:

    Anyone saying “that’s really easy” should demonstrate how easy it is by writing it instead of saying how easy it is.

  25. Facebook has this information already, as long as you are logged in. I imagine that later iterations of Facebook services will include an opportunity to visualize your behavior. However, this can be done in your browser already, it would just take an analysis of your cookies. Meaning, if you found it necessary, you could visualize your Internet traffic patterns with existing 3rd party tech on your computer.

    Check this out:

  26. flarktobble says:

    Not to sidetrack the discussion, but what strikes me about this question is not so much the mechanics of recording these paths, but the paths themselves.  I would expect that for a lot of folks, it’s the same path nearly every time (e.g. Google->”Here”, or BoingBoing->”Here”), but for others (including a good many commenters, it seems) the paths would more resemble the example from the article.  What personality attributes contribute to longer vs. shorter paths to “Here”? Or, similarly, how do your paths change over time? Or do you even retrace a path at all (maybe initially you go A->B->C->D->E the first time, but then G->E after that)?

  27. BeaverBeaver says:

    Google History. It’s not exactly what we are talking about, but I have on many occassion time traveled back to a previous city/job/mindset via Google History to find something “cool” I barely remembered. In the same way, if I search for solar flare, chances are I will find the site where I learned about solar flares that one time. It’s not a solution to this problem and not exact but if this kind of thing is appealing, use google history.

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