Cluztr: The TMI Line Keeps Moving

Yesterday on TechCrunch I read about Cluztr, a new web service which enables you to publish your clickstream (basically, your web browser’s history) for any and all to see. From TechCrunch:

Every site you visit is recorded and posted live to the Cluztr site in a social bookmarking style format, but without the need for active involvement; a Firefox plugin does it automatically.

The wealth of data has benefits outside of letting people watch. Content matching links users with similar clickstreams and creates site recommendations based on user history.

Cluztr is also a chat platform. Cluztr users visiting a particular page are automatically displayed in the sidebar allowing discussions on the topic at hand. A privacy option is available. Clickstreams can be set to private or public.

So blogs enable you to share your opinions with the world, Twitter enables you to share your day-to-day activities with the world, and Cluztr enables you to share everything you view online. What’s next?

I’m sure there’s two guys in a garage somewhere who know the answer to that question.

Nude Photos of Tricia Helfer

Boy, that heading is going to disappoint a lot of web surfers, but I use it to make a point. There’s nothing wrong with looking at nude photos of Tricia Helfer (provided she approved their publication and you’re doing it in moderation and so forth). However, I’m not sure you’d want the world to know exactly which photos you looked at, and for how long, and so forth. And, of course, there are plenty of otherwise rational people who might frown on somebody for looking at naked Ms. Helfer or scientology articles or an anti-gun website or, frankly, a good portion of the sites on the web.

I know there’s a privacy setting, but I’m too absent minded to remember where I put my sunglasses. So the likelihood of my forgetting to switch that rather important toggle from Everybody’s Welcome to Hide my Pantaloon Fetish From the World is way, way too high.

What’s the difference between Cluztr and a blog or Twitter? The latter have active filters–the act of typing the thing out and clicking ‘publish’, and are fundamentally designed for broadcasting stuff.

Cluztr, on the other hand, takes a formerly (or mostly, if you’re surfing the web from a workplace) private act and passively makes it public. That sounds a little too dangerous for me.

And then there’s the whole Heisenberg thing. By measuring your web surfing, you’ll inevitably change your habits. If you’re uber-addicted to, say, lolcats, then that might be healthy, but otherwise I wouldn’t want to self-censor where I surf, just because I thought somebody might find fault with my private behaviour.

Incidentally, the first blogger who adds his or her clickstream to their RSS feed is going to receive a swift beating-by-mail from Malta. I didn’t subscribe to your blog to learn about your love of weimaraners.

Won’t Anybody Think of the Marketers?

Aside from the too-much-information angle, consider what new volumes of consumer data Cluztr users are creating. Presumably you’ll be able to slice, dice, filter and query the Cluztr database in interesting ways. Marketers will be constantly monitoring their competitors on Cluztr, and then contact users who visit them? Every once in a while, if tactfully done, then that might work great. Unfortunately, it’ll be ripe for abuse.

And don’t even get me started with the Cluztr spam. In three months time will legions of Chinese workers put down their virtual swords and plowshares and get paid simply to surf between the same three sites over and over and over again? How do I become an alpha user on Cluztr?

On a related note, let me quote a Digg user who said “I’m getting sickr and sickr of Web 2.0 names.”

There is an event horizon for misspellings of common words, and Cluztr may have crossed it. Saying “Bright with a y” or “Flickr with no e” is one thing, but “that’s cluster with a zed instead of the s and no e”?

How many letters must we misplace before we’re naming companies, like, Dckcyr: “so, that’s ‘deckchair’, but without the e, and replace the y with h, a and i.”


  1. Hi Darren,

    Way off topic here but I’m curious what you’re doing in Malta and how long you’re there for. And what made you decide to pick up and head off there in the first place? I can’t seem to find an explanation on your site (or maybe I haven’t gone back far enough!).

  2. Sarah: If you go here, and scroll down to the bottom of the page, you’ll see my earlier entries (in particular, this one) about Malta, which ought to answer your questions. Thanks for asking.

  3. Darren: Will you and your company benefit from Tax breaks, given that your resident in Malta?


  4. Brian: Nope, we’re not setting up any kind of company in Malta, nor are we doing any business here. We’re not giving up our Canadian residency, and just running our Canadian company from here.

  5. Darren,
    Great post!

    I understand where you’re coming from. I mean who doesn’t visit websites that perhaps we’d rather keep to ourselves? … like celebrity gossip sites and all those cute pages full of kittens.

    But to clarify, like blogs, Twitter, IMs etc. Cluztr also has active filters and explicit means for users to control the broadcasting of their public clickstreams.

    However, Cluztr is more then just a broadcasting platform, there is also the aspect of social discovery in terms of content and people as well as, attention profiling for third party services.

    Imagine visiting and instantly receive a customized view of Digg stories that match your interests.

    Privacy concerns aside, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

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