I have been seeing the terms “Personalized Web” and “Social Web” being used a lot these days on the interent. The differentiation between these two terms may not be as obvious as some think. I have not really found a de-facto standard definition for these terms either.
For me the term “Personalized Web” entails the experience that I have on the Internet which is tailored to my habits and likings. For example being able to personalize the new Google Home Page with a background image is a way to start personalizing the experience. Search results are another example. If a user is constantly searching about animals and then enters the word “jaguar” as a search term, a personalized experience will return results about the animal and not the car.
The term “Social Web” encompasses those experiences where we interact with our peers and family on the web. Facebook has really taken this to a new level where we see “Like” buttons appearing on many internet pages forming a type of social graph. The social web would also includes options to share information with your friends.
There is a natural synergy between these two terms. As our social contacts and behaviours starts changing our personalized experience these two concepts will start to fuse and become indistinguishable. This caters to companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft who want to share advertisements with you based on what your social friends might have purchased or been doing. The way I see it soon our personalized experience will be more and more dictated by our social contacts.
Opportunities to make this experience truly optimized lies in understanding how a user interacts with a certain group of social contacts. It could be that I play sports with certain friends and I would really be interested in knowing what new sport equipment they bought. But I would not care where they bought their new spring jacket from. This level of personalization is a very complex problem and one that will still take time to solve. I would bet though, that this is the direction that the personalized social web is heading.