Achievements and badges are becoming one of the hot new ideas these days. On the gaming side, the X-Box and Steam have them, and a number of games such as Plants vs. Zombies or City of Heroes have them built in. But they’ve been spreading to other realms, too: FourSquare and Yelp award them for checking in at various places, for example.

And now Google News has added badges for reading particular numbers of stories in given categories. At first glance it seems a bit silly, but on further consideration there is probably method to Google’s madness. It’s another way of getting users to tell them more about their habits and tastes, which they can use to build up better pictures of us as individuals and direct more targeted advertising our way. This will probably not sit well with privacy advocates, but most people don’t seem to care about such things.

Regardless, the same people who find earning achievement badges on the X-Box or Steam so compelling might now have a new reason to read the news. Stranger things have happened.


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