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Leeds uni academics create Firefox app that visualises search history

Aims to make it easier for users to view and search their browsing history

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Computer scientists at Leeds University have developed a Mozilla Firefox extension that visualises internet search history so that users can view and search it more easily.

The MyWebSteps add-on, developed by Dr Trien Do and Dr Roy Ruddle in the university’s School of Computing, replaces the familiar browser history list with a graphical environment.

The pair claim that internet users using normal history lists failed about 20 percent of the time when asked to find a webpage they had occasionally visited in the past, but were successful 96 percent of the time using the new tool.

The MyWebSteps add-on turns those lists into visualisations and collects data about sites that makes it easy to search by topic, domain and time of visit. For instance, a user can pull up a tree diagram of a browsing session a week before that shows screenshots of each page, tracing the links they clicked and which web pages led to which.

Previous search queries are also captured and made easy to search and explore, while reset and editing functions allow users to remove tracks they don’t want recorded.

Dr Ruddle, reader in interactive systems at Leeds University, said: “We visit, on average, 2,700 webpages a month and more than a third of that activity is revisiting pages we have been to before.

“The problem is that our internet ‘memory’ is very inefficient. We have all felt the frustration of scrolling through browser history lists failing to find pages that we know we have visited.”

The research was funded by Leeds University under its international research scholarship programme, which supports international doctoral students doing pioneering research.

The add-on is available for free hereFuture releases on browsers including Microsoft’s Explorer and Google’s Chrome are planned.


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