On July 14th, Google launched a new feature called Google News Badges. The purpose of the new feature is to provide a way for avid Google News readers to keep track of their reading habits. Small icons, or badges, are added to the right side of the News site to showcase your reading interests. The system works in a very similar way to the achievement points system of Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Basically, the more articles you click on and read from the site, the more badges you’ll unlock.
The Badges system is not limited to simply unlocking a badge and moving on: it is actually much more dynamic. After unlocking a certain badge, say the Harry Potter one, the more articles you read about that subject causes your badge to level up. Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Ultimate badges are all available and awarded with more and more reading. A badge with a level is indicated by the amount and color of the stars displayed. Badges also act as search links that are clickable to find more news about the topic of the badge.
In essence, Google News Badges is a bragging rights system to show others that you are knowledgeable in a certain area and keep up with current events. While it is easy to cheat the system and just click on articles without reading them, Google seems to have incorporated a limiting feature that realizes when this is occurring. Instead, to unlock and level-up badges, Google recommends spacing out your reading periods and reading a few articles a day, rather than a ton of stories all at once.
The Badges feature is not turned on by default. To start collecting badges, users have to be signed in to their Google account and enable web history, which keeps track of your Google searches and the articles you’ve clicked on (another useful tool). Additionally, in its effort to make Google more social, badges can be made public or private so you can share or hide your embarrassing interests with friends and family.
Personally, I think Badges is a fun way to track your interests and reward yourself for staying up-to-date on the news. There are already over 500 badges available and expect more to be created as current events change daily.
Watch the Google News Badges descriptor video for a visual tour.