Apparently thanks to the World Wide Web, the idea of personalization seems to be catching on. Most people know about Amazon's personalizations, which seem to be quite effective.
Fewer know about the possibility of personalizing their Web experience based on the languages they speak, presumably because few people speak more than one, and the browser in your language (I assume) comes ready personalized for that language.
But still, because I can, I have personalized my browser with the languages I speak, more in order to see which sites react. Maybe not surprisingly, the World Wide Web Consortium's Web site is one of the best, serving up press releases and other documents in different languages depending on what you have said your language preferences are.
Even fewer still know that Google personalizes too, by looking up your IP address, working out what country you are connecting from, and using the language of that country (I haven't yet had the opportunity to test what happens in bi-lingual countries like Belgium or Canada). However, it infuriates me that in doing this they ignore what I have specified as my language preferences, so that I have to click on a couple of links to get the language of my choice even though I have already told them.
I'm still waiting for the site that reacts to the fact that I have specified that my preferred language is U.K. English (rather than say U.S. or Australian English); I'm sure there is a trust issue that would make people feel more at home if they read "personalise" rather than "personalize," or "trousers" rather than "pants."
But for all that, just personalizing on languages isn't much. The problem is one of privacy: How do you get your personal information into a site without having to type it in again and again, and if there were a solution based on say a device that you carry, how do you prevent people you don't want from reading it.
In this issue there is an article addressing some of these issues, about personalizing the use of shared resources within a closed office environment.
Who knows, maybe one day your mobile phone will start buzzing as you pass your perfect partner.
©2004 ACM 1072-5220/04/0500 $5.00
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