internet research tools

the browser is at the core of what we do on computers– and to many, the browser is the computer since most of our apps now live on websites

i come back to some core ideas a lot:

how do we make the web easier to explore and forage? and how can we make those explorations sharable and collaborative?

this isn’t an easy thing to answer, and it probably doesn’t lie in a one-size-fits-all browser. ironically, these problems transcend browsers themselves, and they’re more about inventing many new interoperable tools and standards to make internet exploration natural, fun, and social

i like to think about the problems we have to solve from the perspective of some very basic questions and needs:

did i see this link before?

browser history is the most underutilized resource in our personal data.

it’s incredible that for any given web page, it’s impossible to know how many times youve seen it, whether youve been there before, the first time you found it, or who else has seen it.

what was i doing 5 minutes ago?

related to history, general “versioning” is the core of so many parts of our day. see this for inspo. you should be able to easily rewind or scrub through your history tree. the state of your browser UI is really detached from the process of how you got there

i wanna continue where i left off working yesterday

context switching: going between working sessions - must reproduce windows and tabs. saving working templates (a bunch of links you always return to: email, figma, etc)

this is a huge use case for me personally and i is probably what im going to focus on building for myself first

just found something cool. i should read this later

should be dead simple to just dump cool stuff you find into its relevant categories or link it to other things you’ve found without overthinking it

there have been a bajillion “save for later” apps built over the years but most of them are still super complicated and people (anedotally) don’t really go back to their saved stuff.

it feels like a form of collection, sometimes its a form of bookmarking

side note: bookmarking features in browsers are heavy, aren’t easily searchable, and suffer a lot of the same issues as traditional folder/file system organization

have my friends seen this before? who is here right now?

multiplayer browsing has been a hot topic for a while, but haven’t had great answers yet.

i think ever since google docs / figma took off most people see “multiplayer” and imagine “a bunch of cursors on the same website” but there’s so much low hanging fruit here i can’t believe nobody has built a simple “my friends / teammates were here” chrome extension

we’re planning a trip– can i add some airbnb’s i found to your list?

having link collections multiple people can contribute asynchronously to is remarkably underexplored. the closest i can think of is still are.na, using shared docs to dump links into, notion pages, etc.

what we really need is a github-for-internet-research type service

what does that imply?

an open standard / format for link collections / browsing sessions. a protocol for contributing to that data

where do i go next?

compass, GPS

knowing where to go next on the web is a huge unanswered need. we have the most sophisticated search algorithms in the world but still no clear analog for what “GPS for the internet” or “a compass for the internet” really looks like. google search is the equivalent of an oracle / genie. yes, my wish is your command, but what if i don’t know exactly what i need or where to go?

need more navigation recommendation algorithms

there’s so much more that can be done here that i’ve already gone over before in information forest, but i think my thinking has evolved since i wrote this. i dont think this is the job of one company. just like operating systems, we should have a bunch of tiny, focused tools that work together to make the web feel more like a city you can bop around than “a bunch of websites”

concretely, how much of this fits into one extension, vs how much of this is about building an ecosystem of interoperable tools for internet research and play?

i think my approach is to start with 1. do 1 thing well, like context switching between browsing sessions. be pragmatic, play with it, make it work for my daily life. then abstract out afterwards and find the connections to other problems

at the end of the day, the browsing primitives that i think about the most are pages and people, and the connections between them.

isn’t that what the web is about?