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Site loyalty

wombat posted about an entry about site loyalty, listing the software he uses in various categories and also discussing the loyalty inherent in that particular category. I was originally going to parallel his entry and list the software that I am currently using, but instead I turned this into an entry on how to take current Web services and increase site loyalty and value, with a main focus on how I believe that history is becoming the next big thing in Web services, along with three examples of how current services might evolve.

Site loyalty is ultimately determined by the value of the data that it stores and delivers. The sites that I use are the sites that have the highest value of data (e.g. Flickr, del.icio.us, Gmail, Chameleon/Bloglines), and recent trends in Web services have increased both the value of data and rate at which it can be acquired. Some examples:

  • Tagging: Tagging layers data upon data. The addition of a tag to a photo adds categorization information to that photo and it also links that photo to other's that have the same tag, including photos taken by other people. Therefore, a single photo includes its own data, as well as the means for finding other photos of a similar quality and people with similar interests. Good tagging services have features to suggest and autocomplete tags, which increase the speed and amount of tagging.
  • Search: The search space used to be a zero-switch-cost arena. Google conquered Altavista, and Microsoft and others were full of the belief that they could supplant Google with superior search technology. I think this current crop of competitors is wrong, mainly because the search engine space is now different. Both Google and Yahoo are adding in features that collect and store your data, making you more loyal to their service. They also have the ability to tie a single search box to the multiple sources of data that they are collecting. The latest is search history and 'personalized' search, which collect data without requiring any additional interaction. Add to that e-mail, desktop search, and blogs and the search box has a memory of where your data is and how you want it.

The most important data that I think that services will start collecting is history. I've already mentioned how Google and Yahoo are collecting search history, but there's also Amazon, which perhaps has been the leader in collecting and reguritating it's knowledge of your use of the service. Amazon's recommendation wizard, based on my purchase history, is one of the main reasons I continue to use the service. The current generation of social bookmarking services (Spurl, My Web 2.0) offer the ability to automatically save a version of the page you are bookmarking, creating your own miniature version of the Wayback Machine just in case that old bookmark gives you a 404 or the page is modified.

History hasn't taken over the Web yet, maybe because of privacy concerns, but here are three examples in three different categories of how I think the Web could evolve to use history:

  1. RSS Aggregators: every RSS aggregator should keep track of every link that you click. Although I can always easily bookmark a link, there are far too many cases in which a page I read becomes important long after I've closed the browser window. A time-indexed, feed-indexed, searchable history of links I've clicked would be an invaluable tool for recovering that lost link.
  2. Event organization/calendars: Event organization tools (e.g. evite) and online calendars view events as things that will occur, completely ignoring things that have occurred. One of my main reasons for sticking with Yahoo Calendar is that it has a detailed record of most of my major activities; it is a sparse journal of my life. Similarly, evite pages, which are the focus of attention prior to an event, are completely ignored after an event. Yet, the evite page has many things going for it: people that went to the event have the link, and it provides the means of contacting everyone who did attend the event. Many of the events I attend end with an exchange of e-mail addresses, followed by the exchanging of photos several days later. If the evite page faciliated this post-event process, it could become a record of events that you have attended, mixing the traits of social calendars with that of journals.
  3. News sites: The New York Times requires you to login to view any article on its site. Therefore, it knows every article that you read. Imagine that the end of the year is coming up and the Times is putting out its "Year in Review" articles. In addition to these articles, they could offer loyal readers a "Personalized Year in Review," based on the articles that you clicked on and read. Every day of the year you would know what happened, as judged by your own interpretation of news-worthiness. Of course, there's no reason to limit this feature to an annual review.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on July 2, 2005 12:15 AM.

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