March 07, 2006

BarCampDelhi Session: Web 2.0 and the Power of Default - Prashant

Another awesome talk. This time on how "default" is an enormously powerful advantage. Prashant started with asking everyone's opinion about which they thought was the most popular IM service. "GAIM", everyone shouted. Geeks!! He explained that it's AOL (probably most popular in US, I doubt if it's true worldwide with Asia's internet population as big as it is now). Still point taken- the power of default. Since most people don't change the configuration they are provided with, the service/ product/ website that is the default enjoys automatic user loyalty for the longest time.

Perhaps the most potent example of the power default in recent times is how much Google is trying to become one. They are trying everything in their power to get onto people's desktops, become their default search engine/ homepage, be the toolbar of choice thorugh bundling their products and services with a bunch of software, pushing them on their homepage, partnering with the likes of Dell, Sun and Mozilla, trying to buy AOL, launching nationwide internet service. Google isn't content being the default of you and your mom. It wants to be the default of entire world even those who aren't online yet (they are experimenting with new ways of getting internet into people's home such as through electricity).

I was always aware that default gets easy acceptance but the talk drove the point home and made me think. One little point - Prashant said people don't change the default because people are lazy. Well that's only partly true. The scientific word for the phenomenon in decision making where people don't make the optimal choice but "make do" with a given preference when dealing with complexity is called "bounded rationality" or more commonly "satisficing" as proposed by Herbert Simon in the late 60s.

Another important point made by Prashant was that there is "no exit path in web applications." You give them all your data and they lock it in. You can't take your data elsewhere. Jon mentioned that he started blogging with MT and wants to move to Wordpress but is stuck with it because there's no easy way to keep the same URLs. I received an email today from someone quite web savvy trying to switch to Gmail but didn’t know how to take his emails there (no easy way if you're with Hotmail or Yahoo). I plan to write more on this topic as it occurred to me later that this has striking parallels in another popular industry - the much maligned DRM in the music business. Funny isn't it that we never think of web apps the same way?

PS: Prashant stirred up a big debate among the audience by saying that Web apps should not rely on advertising as a revenue model (to which I generally tend to agree) because advertising models require economies of scale.

Prashant Singh's blog
All my posts reviewing BarCampDelhi

2 Comments so far      

Anonymous holger:

great thoughts. The "power of the default" is an interesting usability concept to think about. your post makes me want to go to the BarCamp which will be held in Berlin soon. :-)

23 September 2006 18:26:00 GMT+05:30 link  
Blogger Manu Sharma:

Thanks, Holger.

23 September 2006 20:29:00 GMT+05:30 link  

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