A Million Different Internets

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Almost no-one accesses the Internet. What most users access is a selection information determined to varying degrees by their own behaviour, and the nature of the gatekeepers, such as ISP, browsers, applications, DNS, platforms, language, social networks and online nodes such as search engines and portal sites. The Internet has always been a media especially prone to creating silos of information and homogeneous communities, however increasingly behavioural and real world factors are having a greater impact than before.

Organic factors such as user interest and active social behaviour has always influenced what a person might see and experience online. Someone with no interest or no friends who are interested in esoteric information like Babylon 5 are not likely to hear much about it if they do not actively seek it. There is less chance of being exposed to information they have no interest in on the Internet than in most mass media. Of course the larger the social network of the individual and the greater their direct involvement, the more information outside of their immediate sphere of interest they will be exposed to.

None of these factors are unique to the Internet. The tools available online make it possible to interact with more people in some way then was even possible before. The speed and diversity of content that can be shared online has no parallel in history, but ultimately, it’s just people being people online. What has become increasingly important is the influence of location, device, software and sites or platforms that actively use user generated data to shape your online experience.

The technology to change what is shown by IP, cookies, logged in accounts, OS and browsers are not a new innovation. Their implementation online is becoming more apparent with more obvious use and a proliferation of Internet capable devices in the population. This trend covers commercial sites, social media, news and search engines. It affects content from advertising, articles through to search listings.

Personalised Search

Currently, one of the most interesting things about Personalised Search is the averages users complete ignorance of it. Personalisation of content thought to be consistent for all who access it will have interesting social ramifications. Most users are not actually aware that their own behaviour, and at some point the behaviour of people they are connected to through their Google products, will have an effect on what appears where in their search results.

Google has for a lot of people become a portal, with users retrieving information through the search box with keywords they have learnt, or told to use. This change in user experience of information retrieval for sites other than brand and generic terms may discourage users from being so totally dependant on Google Search acting as a replacement for sharing and directing accessing URLs.

Cross Platform Content Consumption

Not all content works on all platforms. Mobile browsers are far more sophisticated than they were when WAP was the standard, and most web content is now easily accessible on mobile devices, with a few notable exceptions such as flash. Due to differences in screen size and interface some sites will serve a different site to different devices.

Location Aware

With IP addresses, the ability to serve different content to users from different locations has been available for ages. No where is this more apparent then in search. What is new is how location aware applications are now using device APIs to access information from the GPS chip. This location data makes it possible to serve information based on a far more granular level than is possible through IP addresses.

User Experience and Advertising

Delivering the right message to the right person in the right place at the right time is as important for advertising as it can be for sharing information. Delivering relevant information from trusted sources in the right place and time to a user who has demonstrated an interest does go a long way towards managing the huge volume of information available. There is a cost associated with this, including privacy and an increasingly myopic view on the Internet, especially with content that is currently assumed by the average user to be consistent for all.

One response to “A Million Different Internets”

  1. […] has not provided a single universal search experience for a while, so the first of these three features is not as significant as it would seem. The […]

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