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I'm putting together a music based website where users can explore artists and albums. One pattern I've noticed amongst content heavy sites like IMDB and YouTube is that they go the extra mile as far as providing browsing history for registered users.

Are there studies, articles, or discussions that key-in on why having a browser history available to a user is/isn't beneficial? As a webmaster I can imagine that it would result in a higher click-through rate but this question in particular is geared towards the user than anything.

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    just a hunch, but I'm pretty sure the history serves the retailer more than the user "Oh yea, I forgot to buy that yesterday. I guess I'll buy it today!" – DA01 Sep 15 '15 at 15:15
  • That's an interesting speculation. Thanks for sharing. I wonder how it effects non-retail sites. – Carl Edwards Sep 15 '15 at 15:16
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    with music especially I'm going to bands more than once. Its not just handy to have a history, I need a history – colmcq Sep 15 '15 at 15:19
  • @colmcq What's the reason for why you would visit a band multiple times if you don't mind me asking? – Carl Edwards Sep 15 '15 at 15:22
  • @CarlEdwards listen to a song you like again, show a friend, explore the next song/album you didn't get to (if they have a 10 album discography I'm not looking at all in one sitting), open it on a different device (if I find it at work I may want to see it again at home when I am able to look, or if I find it on my phone and it's too small I may want to see it on my desktop), check if they came out with anything new a month after I last visited, forgot what I read previously – DasBeasto Sep 15 '15 at 15:49
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Of course there are many reasons for this. First and most important one: to act as reminders of your previous activity. Let's say you watch a video on YouTube, then you continue watching or close your session or whatever. A couple days later, you remember that video WHICH YOU DIDN'T BOOKMARK and... browsing history to the rescue.

Basically, browsing history acts as a set of dynamically created bookmarks you can relate at a later time. This is specially useful on apps where you don't have a bookmarks tab as you have in your browser, so you really need a way to provide this feature to your users.

As for more reasoning and articles, you might be interested in the following:

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This is beneficial in two reasons:

Security/ Backup: If you have logged on an account on a website, let's say you happen to visit a particular webpage through your account. Now you logout of the particular website. Tomorrow, a coworker will decide to diabolically peek into your browser history. He sees something on this very specific website. He clicks on it, but BAM! You need to be logged in to access that content! Since the content is only available to access through your account, the browser history proves useless and might as well save you tomorrow in the case you clear your browser history or want to access that item through a different computer.

Second Thought: You visit the item, wish to purchase it but change your mind. Now the website gets hold of what you wanted to purchase and recommends you similar items or the same item, saying you left it "incomplete". It leverages you into a second thought to purchase that product.

  • I agree on the second point, but if anything, any type of history decreases "security" because it stores all of your past actions. – LS97 Sep 15 '15 at 18:29
  • Only if you're logged in. If you aren't it'll simply ask you to login first. Also, backup is an important point I should have made into a separate one because if you were to be logged on to a different computer and wanted to access your history, it would need you to login into the browser. Instead this simplifies it by only having you login into the website. – Swapnil Borkar Sep 15 '15 at 18:32
  • I'm still not totally on board with the security thing (simply because it adds more history than a regular browser history, and not replaces it). But +1 for the rest and I think backup does deserve its own point. – LS97 Sep 15 '15 at 18:34
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    @SwapnilBorkar I agree with LS97, the first point seems like more of a case for a login than for browsing history. If the website didn't have a built in browsing history the same situation you described could occur. – DasBeasto Sep 15 '15 at 20:08

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