Felix Miller and Martin Stiksel, the founders of Last.fm, sold their company to CBS for $280 million in 2007. Then what did they do? They built a content discovery platform. That’s right – a content discovery platform called Lumi.
As if content discovery platforms aren’t already abound, right? Something is different about Lumi, though, and for this reason I’m willing to welcome it into my Web routine with open arms. Like magic, Lumi it requires no work on your part. It doesn’t ask you to choose your favorite topics or import RSS feeds. Instead, Lumi analyzes your browser history to determine what you like to see on the internet. All in a private way.
How Lumi Works
You can join Lumi by entering your email address or signing in through your Twitter account. Once your account is created, Lumi will ask you to install a browser extension (available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) and will then take a few moments to retrieve and process your browser history, immediately anonymizing your information.
Once this process completes, you’ll be taken to a page of topics Lumi has determined you’re most interested in. For example, if you usually spend your days browsing CNET, AddictiveTips, Popular Science, Yummly, and CNN World, Lumi might suggest tech, science, food, and world news categories for you. My Lumi suggestions, however, included two mentions of the NSA, or National Security Agency, but fortunately this is indicative of my browsing history and hopefully not theirs.
You can browse through topics to discover pages of interest to you though, some from sources you follow and others from sources you’ve never heard of. After all, Lumi aims to let you effortlessly discover things you like online. Additionally, each item you find in Lumi is categorized by a topic. Clicking the topic will bring you its page, where you can discover new related content. Along the left-hand side of the page you’ll find a vertical bar that hides until you hover over it. In this bar you’ll find the topics Lumi identified for you along with links to your friends page, your profile, your collections, and your starred items. Starred items are items you save for later within the Lumi interface or by clicking the Lumi icon of your browser extension. Though starring items makes them appear publicly in your profile, you can change this setting to hide your items from the public. A collection is a group of starred pages you can create for any topic like music, tech or science, which also don’t change the privacy setting of the individual stars. You can also browse trending pages, follow other users and more, as Lumi will aggregate users’ browsing history to determine when articles are gaining steam on the Web – an invaluable tool in itself.
The more you use Lumi, the better your results will be. For example, if you don’t click on a certain topic very often, in the future Lumi will show you fewer of those types of pieces. Likewise, if you click on a certain topic often, Lumi will continue to show you related items. In this way, Lumi reminds me of a more intelligent StumbleUpon (minus the annoying features of StumbleUpon).
Privacy on Lumi
“We’re very aware that recording your visit data with Lumi raises some pretty serious privacy concerns. We assure you that your browsing activity is secure, completely anonymized, and will never be shared with anybody else.”
What’s more, through further research I found that even Lumi’s engineers can’t attach your browsing history to your identity, as your information is anonymized when it is sent to Lumi. But if you ever were to feel uneasy about Big Brother Lumi looking over your shoulder, you can always browse in incognito mode; Lumi can’t see anything you do in that state.
Making Your Browser History Work for You
Lumi’s creators feel passionately about the need for a discovery tool based on browser history. They realized that, though we’ve been using Web browsers for years, no one has yet put those efforts to work for us. “I’ve been browsing the Web for 15 years and I have no benefit from that. I have a few bookmarks and I’ve learned how to write a good Google query but that’s it – all this knowledge I’ve produced, all these choices I’ve made, they all disappear into the ether,” said Martin in The Next Web.
Miller is bent on creating a tool that does the thinking for you, not vice versa. He was quoted in CNET, saying, “It’s 2013. I shouldn’t have to do anything ever to make this work.” Hopefully Lumi will indeed be the content discovery tool to top all others. We’ll have to see how it takes.
This Last.fm approach to the internet may be just what the doctor prescribed. Lumi could simplify the way we find interesting things online. As the Lumi team wrote in their blog,
“When pooled together, browsing history can identify trending pages in real-time with no other actions required. And your own browsing history can guide you to things that are relevant just to you. We have high hopes for this new approach to helping you find things more effortlessly and making our lives online a little bit easier.”