Apple are planning a Safari update to take on Google's new Chrome browser, with a non-linear history that would make tracking website visits more intuitive. That's the suggestion from a new Apple patent application, which discusses a non-linear, timeline threaded display of a user's browsing history that uses context and a timeline rather than simple forward and back. In a way, Apple make it sound like Visual Voicemail for your history.
"A problem with this linear history is that users can visit a large number of web pages, which are confusing to view in a linear history, and the forward and back buttons are inefficient and cumbersome way to navigate through multiple web pages. Further, the problems of a linear history are not confined to pages accessed via a web browser, but also apply when a succession of data of other types is accessed over a period of time." Apple patent 20080235632
In fact, Apple don't limit the non-linear system to just webpages. In their explanation of the system they suggest it could be applied for managing "a succession of data of other types ... accessed over a period of time". As a paradigm shift it's analogous to the switch from traditional voicemail (dial in, listen to messages in the order they were left) to Visual Voicemail on the iPhone: users can pick and choose their entry point into their history, and see the movement in a threaded, contextually-linked layout.
As with any patent, there's no telling when - or if - we'll see any actual development based on this in real products. However an introduction in Safari with wider reaching for future versions of OS X and other apps is a real possibility.