A few months ago, I did a brief post mentioning that if you have a google account, google will keep track of your search history (what websites you visit and what keyword searches you do) in order to show you pay-per-click ads most relevant to what it thinks you want you to see.
Today, I was reminded of another aspect to google's tracking: They show you customized search information based on your search history. For example, if you do multiple searches for "widgets" and you tend to click the #4 listing "sexy widgets for geeks," then over time, google will begin to show that #4 listing at a higher place, perhaps even #1. Someone else doing that same search will see the listing at it's #4 rank.
Does the idea make sense? In other words, #1 could be #1 to you and not to another searcher on on another computer.
I have noticed this phenomena several times over the last couple of years, most notably when doing a search on my laptop and then doing the same search on a another computer at a public library or internet cafe. However, I noticed it again this morning when switching browsers. When doing a search on Firefox I get a pattern of results that was different from doing the same search on Safari. Until recently, Firefox has been my preferred browser, so presumably Google has more history on my Firefox searches.
Whatever the cause, the idea of relative searches and search results raise some interesting ideas. Taken to an extreme, it could be that every searcher has search results tailored to his or her unique behavior and needs (as surmised by google). The cluster of first page rankings for one keyword search for a user could be totally different from the cluster of results for another user doing the same search.
I have to admit that I like the idea. I don't think google could actually go this far just yet. But it could be that searches could become contextual and based on the the users unique behavior. In other words, #1 for any particular search becomes relative to the user and not to a particular outside standard.