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Trailblazin’

Slashdot just frontpaged TrailBlazer, a unique browser with a super–fly purpose: graphical representation of your history. In a word: brilliant.

The idea is rock–solid: present your browsing history as a kind of branched storyboard, an outline tracing your path through the internet. You recognize the sites because you’ve seen them all before; you recognize the patterns because you followed them yourself, just as you might remember how to drive to your Aunt Gladys’ place though you don’t know the address. I’ve cursed the text–only interface of “normal” browser–history navigators far too often, unable to identify a particular web site (or particular page of a particular site) by its obscure title. And though OmniWeb’s full–text history search is a step in the right direction (and would be welcome in TrailBlazer too), I can’t help but think this is a teeny bit better.

Well… not exactly better.

See, TrailBlazer is implemented as a full–on web browser; a web browser that demands you use it full–time in order to enjoy its unique perspective on History presentation. A web browser that lacks most of the normal features we’ve come to expect from a browser (Internet Explorer users: ignore that last comment. We know you don’t expect any of these new–fangled ‘features’ in your browser). To put a spin on it: TrailBlazer isn’t really a browser, it’s a technology demonstration for a very cool way of looking at your browser history. Ideally, they’d let you import history from your default browser and view that through its funky interface. No dice.

One of the reasons they haven’t done this, I suspect, is because our current browsing habits would tend towards making this new view useless. With tabs being all the rage right now, we tend to just Command–click links to open them in the background. We don’t click links to follow them then Back–Back–Back out of them later. We don’t follow paths so much… we just spawn new ones. If TrailBlazer could identify what spawned which new window from where, we’d be in business for some integration with other browsers, but for now it’s an amusing and inspiring look at how things could be done. Congratulations to the geeks at the UIUC MacWarriors group.