Content-generated user

Two years ago, after my presentation on WEB2.0 in Devclub I was asked, what will come next. I had no answer then and don’t have a distinct answer now. But I have a feeling, where everything is going.

Yesterday Facebook wall brought me a video of presentation of Eli Pariser on TED.

And suddenly I got a vision of what is going to come next after WEB2.0 – it is WEB2.5, and I am going to explain why.
Eli Pariser’s talk is more like conspiracy theories – world domination, global government etc. I would like to talk about technology.

I read this long time before in the “Exit strategy” by Douglas Rushkoff. The system, described in the book seems very familiar if we look on Google and Facebook expansion today. Developed network by a main character analyses users’ lifestyle habits and modifies ads so, that definite Internet user will buy a promoted product. Rushkoff made this program only to sell products and make people to invest into huge amount of companies. But at some point program uses it’s power to make small synagogue attendants to vote for the main hero’s father as chief Rabbi. They voted not according to their free will, but following the size, position and colour of buttons on web page.
Eli Pariser noted, that Google search results on different computers differ very much. During my work with promotion of websites in Internet I found lot of aspects, why search result can be different:

  • User is logged to his/her Gmail account in the same browser, where he is trying to search for something. Google connects your Gmail account with search patterns and shows different view.
  • Country specific search. Google search has a pretty annoying option – deliver search results according to the country, where your Internet provider resides. If you are living in Estonia, but should use internet connection over VPN in Germany – you will not get Estonian links so simple.
  • Browser specific searches. Internet Explorer returns different search results from Chrome, but Chrome in its turn has different results from Firefox and so on.

Here are some variants of querying Google search for the term Estonia.

So, why I consider that upcoming epoch will be WEB2.5, but not 3.0. The reality is, that the majority of information spread in the Internet is user-generated content. Just the same people, as you and me, write articles in blogs and wiki, twit, post statuses in Facebook, publish videos on Youtube and commenting all this stuff. All this information is delivered via search engines to end-users. And that is why I consider major version is 2. But 2.5 is because this search machine adds its own logics to the search results. And I truly hope, that there are real birds, who work in search industry.

These mechanisms allow to manipulate users’ information flows to make them think in a certain way. The problem actually more of the user-side. Every SEO specialist would say, that the majority of users stop searching after the 5th line of Google search. Some look through the page with search results and very rare user sees the page #3. So, the search machine considers that the most relevant information for you is located on the first page. If you want to learn more – go to the second search page, you will be surprised how much information you can get from there.

Internet is overcoming Television and makes user influence is much worse. Now there are possibilities to influence not a target group, but an actual target user’s attitude. I remember the attitude towards paper newspapers in Soviet Union. Many people considered it as the final truth. Then TV replaced newspapers, due to lack of trust in paper word. Now Internet replaces TV, also due to lack of trust. Search results are loosing trust as well now. There is nothing to replace it at the moment.

I would like to copyright the title of this article “Content-generated user”. It means, that modern users’ views can be manipulated by the provided content in a certain manner. The definition of the cultural process is “User-generated content is being substituted by user-generated content delivered to user by computer, based on user’s networking habits.”