Thursday, September 29, 2011

To infinity and your browser!

I got involved in a Google+ discussion about infinite scrolling in Google+. For those not familiar with the term "infinite scrolling," here's a definition:

By definition, infinite scroll, means that there are no pages to switch to and from, everything is in one long page.

The concept has been adapted by many sites that feature a content stream, such as the news feeds in Facebook or Twitter, or, indeed, search results.

In its favor, infinite scrolling (usually) reduces clicks, since the additional information appears without you having to do anything except scroll downwards.

However, some people (including Patricia, the person who initiated the Google+ thread cited above) would rather have a finite thread, thank you very much. Or, at a minimum, the option to choose whether you have an infinite thread or a finite thread.

Such discussions occur all the time, especially (as Patricia noted) for free services where we aren't paying anything to use them. Whether you're talking about infinite scrolling, real-time feeds, ads, automatic sharing of information, or what have you, there are people who want the option to turn "feature X" off.

But, in truth, the majority of people couldn't care less. "If [service] wants to turn [feature X] on and not allow me to turn it off, fine. Just as long as they don't implement that monthly user fee that all my friends are talking about."

More techie people usually understand this attitude, even if they personally don't agree with it. But the more elitist of the techie people can't stand it.

What the elitists forget, however, is that the vast majority of people don't want an infinite "settings" page in which you can customize a service to your specific likings. While Facebook has implemented detailed settings in response to critics, I wouldn't be surprised if 95% of all Facebook users have never touched those settings. If they wanted to spend time setting every thing imaginable, then they'd go ahead and get a computer science degree instead of having a real life (or, in the case of games addicts, a virtual life).

Call it the anti-MySpace, but it seems that a lot of services are moving toward more standard offerings. such as Stumbleupon's future black and white pages. Or a device (take your pick) that only lets you buy applications from a single source.

Are we moving toward an online world with fewer options? Or will there be a rebellion in which a large number of people (rather than just a limited few) demand a wide variety of options and settings?

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