Internet masterminds realized you can get people to do almost anything (like, say, share their banal restaurant visits with friends) if you make it a pseudo-game. Now Google's piling on! Reading news will let you collect badges and level up.

Google News' new badge system will ostensibly let you organize your browsing habits better, but I think it's safe to say that this is mostly about tapping into our perhaps primordial life-drive to rack up arbitrary points. To use Google's own example, frequent reading of basketball articles will earn you a 'Basketball' badge, which you can then level up with repeated reading.

There are more than 500 badges to unlock���presumably for extremely niche topics like sexy knitting and the Micronesian legislature���so you better get readin' if you want to visually dominate your friends in current events consumption. One caveat: you need Web History switched on, so privacy pros might not want to stitch these badges on. [Google Blog]