For the past 7 years I have been on an ongoing search to present the best new sites, services & apps to my readers. Every week I find at least one site that blows my mind. I get excited about how this service could evolve into something big, it’s potential to grow into a billion dollar business, and how it can change the face of the Internet.
But you won’t find these great sites on the first page of Google results—you might not find them on the first 10. As a result, these services, some of them genuinely life-changing, get lost in the dark recesses of the Internet. Even when you find these gems, you probably won’t think to access them the next time you log on. Their biggest challenge is finding a large enough audience to create a habit around their product.
Creating a habit around a product is limited by the way we browse the Web.
Take a moment and think about the browser user experience. It hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years and since the days of Netscape, we’ve been confined to a search box. We need to know exactly what we’re looking for, either through a search or by typing in the exact web address.
This experience is based on an intention, one that is transformed into a search query. But what happens when we don’t have a specific intention in mind? These moment of non-intention define our daily Internet routine.
How many times a day do you procrastinate with one of the big services available to you? Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, NYTimes or HuffPost you’re limited to only the “top of mind” services that pop into your head at that specific moment. When we want to shop online, one or two sites pop into our mind. When we’re looking for news, a few publications pop into our mind. With any given topic, you can usually think of one or two services that provide it.
But what about the hundreds of other websites available in that specific topic? While you certainly don’t need hundreds of options, it’s useful to branch out and explore different directions (especially when they are just a few clicks away). Even when we do find useful alternatives to our tried-and-true sites, it’s difficult to form a habit and start using them more often.
This habit is formed by bookmarking the site, adding it to a list, sending an email to yourself about the site, sharing it on Twitter, or whatever you do to try and save an interesting service. No matter what you do, when you need it, you can’t find it. You are still limited.
Lets say you came across an interesting website for boutique hotels called ‘Stayful’. You save and share it somewhere online. A few months later, you have a trip to plan. Now begins the search through endless lists in order to find that one service whose name you can’t even remember. This is no easy feat for most people.
This is where Google reaps the benefits. Chances are, you won’t find this site again while searching for a keyword such as “boutique hotels”. You start refining the search, all the while seeing tons of ads and maybe you even click on a few. Google makes a profit. Sounds legit right?
One might say, including me, that Google provides such a great service. I don’t mind if they make a profit over it. Of course… but what I ask for, don’t force me into searching, provide me with an easy way to access my Web.
Just take a brief look at all of our smart devices.
On our desktops. Every application is just a click away…
On our tablets, all our apps are just one touch away.
On our smartphones, just a touch away…
So why on the browser are we confined to a search box?
The browser experience is deliberately forcing us into searching everything. These browsers make most of their profit by keeping this experience alive. So, who cares? The ones who care are the millions of startups, businesses and content providers out there, trying to get the world’s attention.
Apple, Google & Microsoft built amazing app stores for mobile and desktop. They made it as simple as possible for their users to access these products. However, on the Web, they don’t have control over what we are doing. So they provide us with a lousy experience. Forcing the user to only a handful of websites that he can remember by heart.
Due to the difficulty in marketing a Web product, developers turn to the platforms provided by these companies because they offer an “easier” marketing platform. This provides the companies with full control over these profitable platforms. They control which apps are approved, they control the profits and they control the content.
This control over our lives is dangerous!
Before we look at net neutrality issues over bandwidth, we need to look at our favorite companies and their control over our virtual world. The Web should be an open platform allowing anyone to enjoy and take part in.
We deserve a better browsing experience; an experience as easy and intuitive as we have with our smart devices.
“You affect the world by what you browse.” Tim Berners-Lee