Today Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, announced a new technology concept entitled Atom. This technology would allow any web resource to be personalised for users that have a search history with Yandex, using a special API that connects websites to Yandex’s personalisation engine.
According to Yandex spokesperson Vladimir Isaev, when Yandex developed their personalised search technology they wondered if this could also be used to power personalised content on websites. Personalisation technology is usually very expensive and relies on a website gathering a lot of data about its users.
With the Atom API, which is currently in the concept stage, Yandex will allow websites to tap in to the data the search engine has on users to drive personalised content, without compromising users’ privacy.
For example, a travel website selling package tours would like to show the most relevant travel deals to its visitors. Right now that site would have to build its own database of users’ clicks and online behaviour to be able to serve personalised offers.
With Atom, the travel website could tap in to Yandex’s search history and show personalised offers for precisely those travel packages that the visitor is interested in, based on their previous search queries and online behaviour. The Atom API would tell the travel website which offers to show and in what order, without passing any personal information to the website.
The infographic below explains how the Atom concept would work:
All website owners would need to do is switch on the Yandex Atom API, install Yandex.Metrica (their Google Analytics rival), and that’s it.
This concept would theoretically work anywhere, but is most effective for regions where Yandex has a lot of active users such as Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
While currently just a concept, Yandex intends to develop Atom over the next few years in collaboration with the internet community. Isaev admitted it is an ambitious plan that would only work if it gathers appropriate support from website owners and users, but the technology could potentially bring advanced customisation to all websites for a fraction of the cost of current personalisation engines.
This would benefit users who will get personalised content across many different websites, as well as website owners who can benefit from the commercial power of personalisation without having to invest heavily in custom technology.
The downside is of course an amplification of the ‘filter bubble‘ effect. One hopes that, when the technology is ready, there will be the option to disable Atom-powered personalisation for users who want to avoid personalised content.
Update 04 October: Yandex confirmed that users will be able to turn off Atom – they are able to do the same for search personalisation on Yandex now.