Lijit: a social web search widget

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I've just installed a nifty new widget on my personal blog. Called the Lijit, it uses Google to allow users to search my blog. Not a huge deal, you say? True enough.

But it does a lot more than that. Users can also search my entire Web 2.0 presence – Flickr photos, bookmarks, LinkedIn contacts and more. They can even search every blog in my blogroll. And I can track what visitors are searching for on my personal profile page, with popular search terms displayed in tag cloud format.

According to Lijit, they want to combine web searches with the filtering process we constantly pursue as we build our personal networks:

In real-life, people seek out advice from friends, co-workers, family, professionals, etc. Content is vetted though these social connections reducing the number of possibilities, and filtering for local relevance. This filtering is complex and it evolves through our entire lives. It is shaped by the experiences we have, the people we know, and the path that we take in life.

Lijit plans to build out the widget's features... including the inevitable financial incentives:

In the very, very near future we plan to give you interesting statistics about what people are searching you for, and who other experts may be that have that information. And, because you worked hard to write, bookmark, and read all that cool stuff we also plan to give you a way to monetize searches people make with your hard earned online ‘stuff’.

Because Lijit uses Google's Custom Search service, it requires you to submit a Gmail username and password (not necessarily – or advisably – your primary account). I felt a little queasy about that, although the site's Attention Trust certification helped that go down a little easier.

Some aspects of the service still aren't really documented. Just what a "Lijit list" is, for example, and what constitutes the "best" and "worst" hits on it, is absolutely cryptic to me; I couldn't find any reference to it in the help files.

That said, Lijit is still in beta. I'll be interested to see how that tag cloud evolves, and what uses people put the site to. Widgets are growing in popularity, so I'll be just as interested to see what other handy little gadgets this one inspires. I'll keep you posted.

Updated: First feature request – I wish you could opt to style Lijit yourself in CSS. Instead, the widget's Javascript snippet brings in a bunch of inline CSS styling of its own... including some that made it too wide for my blog's layout. I've had to rejig the page to accommodate it, which is pretty much the exact opposite of how a well-behaved widget should work.

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