I've thought a lot about whether you can build a business via a browser plugin. I wrote a post a while back on that exact topic. I have seen web services successfully use browser plugins to increase the engagement with users. Delicious did this very successfully. The combo of a web service and a browser plugin is better than just a web service and is vastly superior to trying to do it all via a plugin approach.
And so I am very pleased to see that our portfolio company Adaptive Blue has announced the introduction of a very useful web service to supplement it's Glue plugin. The Glue plugin recognizes all sorts of web sites and catalogs the users visits to them.
I've been using the Glue plugin for several years. Glue automatically recognizes books, movies, music, artists, stars, stocks, restaurants and wine on hundreds of popular sites around the web. Glue works on Amazon, Netflix, Last.fm, Rhapsody, IMDB, Citysearch, Wine.com just to name a few. Here is a full list of Glue supported sites.
Now all of that activity is captured for each user and displayed via a public profile. Here is mine.
Each Glue user has a profile in the web service. Each item (book, movie, music, etc) has a page in the Glue service. So Glue is building a social network of people and items and showing connections between them.
And it is making connections and recommendations between items and people based on all of the data it has collected over the past couple years (and will continue to collect).
Here's an example. There's a BBQ restaurant near our office in NYC called Hill Country. Here is the Hill Country page on Glue. On that page, you can see the Glue users who like Hill Country, you can see what they say about it, and you can see similar barbeque joints, including my favorite in NYC, Fette Sau, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
There are a few other additions that I think are noteworthy. Glue now has a "game like" element in which you can collect stickers and become the Guru of a particular item in the service. As we've seen with foursquare, such gamelike features can really enhance the engagement levels of a web service.
The recommendations are delivered via a stream so they are "light and easy" to consume. The Glue service uses streams throughout to give the application a "live" feel. Here is the live feed of all user interactions.
Glue is about using the power of implicit behavior (web surfing) combined with occasional explicit behavior (likes and short comments about the items) and semantic analysis to develop a rich data set to power recommendations across many web services.
Give it a try and let me know what you think. You can download the extension here to get started.