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Google and Facebook changed websites in seemingly obvious ways. SEO and Sharing weren’t a “thing” until they respectively attained critical mass. Before Google, there were Yahoo and AOL portals. I don’t remember those days. Before Facebook, there was “homepages” and news sites.
Websites optimized for visibility on Google. People became aware of the potential benefits in traffic from seemingly simple acts of optimizing for search keywords. The more obscure, the more likely the term was going to showcase your website first. People optimized their sites for indexability. Away with the obscure <marquee> and <blink>. Rise of the <h1> and <a title=””>.
Now websites optimize for sharability. The implication of having your website shared on Facebook or Twitter means that someone is “referring” your website to their inner circle. The value of content stands out amongst the seemingly unending content. Social activity became a signal to differentiate quality. As a result, websites optimized for their social cards, clickable titles, and concise descriptions.
The emergence of an infinitely indexable web created the sense of having anything at your fingertips. Anything that you would want to know is only a search result away. The emergence of social networks created a venue for content discovery through the lens of your social filter. The content your consume is as relevant to you as your friends are interesting.
With Google, the available content becomes overwhelming. The sheer quantity of available results reduces your chance of viewing anything more than the immediately available results. When users are dissatisfied with their search results, they are more likely to refine their search then they are to scroll up and down their result. As a result, value of content is limited to the user’s ability to craft effective queries.
Similarly with Facebook, the discoverable content is polarized by the social filter a person creates. Most political opinions and religious sentiments will be reflective of a person’s existing beliefs. As a result, news feeds become a collection of familiar content.
In the context of the points above, the value in Google’s effect on the internet is the shift into indexable content. In relation to meta data on a page, the value of Facebook is the shift toward attention grabbing titles (opposed to the keyword packed SEO titles) and the concise descriptions. Both services encourage the use of valid html and rich meta tags.
There is a missing gap when it comes to discovering the context behind discovered information. A search result is isolated information experience. There is no context associated to the result that helps explain its significance. The value of any information is created relative to everything else.
Content discovery is easier when browsing is efficient. The newsfeed is a unending updating source of distraction. When time is scarce and information is abundant, this can be dangerous. The value of not needing to click into many web pages or open many tabs in outweighed by time wasted in the newsfeed.
We need something that provides broad relevant content to the information we are viewing. We need to leverage the lessons we’ve learned from optimizing brief attention-high information experiences.