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Are Web 2.0 and Internet Interaction Becoming Obsolete?

When can a researcher detect the end of a trend? The concept of “Web 2.0″, focusing on the web as an interactive space between users rather than the straightforward providing of information, continues to dominate much of Internet thought. Companies have rushed to provide users with many different options to interact with or co-create for the company. But, a variety of other trends seem to indicate that less interactivity is on its way. A few examples:

1) Option overload. As interactivity has become more important, the tools and options have also improved and increased. Forget the comment section of yesteryear: now there are polls, forms, and platforms. But the satire in The Onion points out that many customers feel overwhelmed. Interactivity has gone from special sauce to main course, and that doesn’t match the priorities of many users. From an operations perspective, expanding options should result in better solutions: but in practice, users become overwhelmed and can’t take full advantage of the extra options.

2. Rise of mobile and tablet computing. Interaction requires the user to be able to quickly and easily navigate a text input device. This prerequisite is at times under-appreciated. (I would love to see statistics on how many Internet users fail to interact as much simply because of their inadequate typing skills). Mobile phones and tablets are accounting for an increasing amount of Internet traffic, yet it can be difficult to type a more lengthy, meaningful comment on such devices, or even to take a survey. The frustrated user will thus decline interaction opportunities.

3. Rewards for Interactivity versus Content Creation. Suppose that you excel in creating animated GIF’s. You could use that skill to make art in your favorite blog’s comment section, thus getting some approval from other readers or the blog writer. Or, you could start your own blog. Given the improvement of services such as Google Adsense or Youtube Partnership to market and monetize your blog, the jump from participating in a conversation to hosting it is a small one. Also, users are more aware that companies are profiting from their interactivity, and thus will demand more for the (dubious) privilege.

4. Misfit between Interaction Technology and Interaction Utility.
Reader, when was the last time you truly were impressed by the design of an interaction opportunity? Good interaction design shows the user the value of interaction before they interact, not after or never. Early adopters try a new technology just for variety’s sake. But to hold the attention of mainstream (early majority and late majority) customers, interaction technology has to bridge the gap between novelty and necessity.

In the end, I have more questions than answers for you. If I and others are correct, what will the less interactive Internet look like? Will it be dominated by design, and attempt to gain user information more by indirect rather than direct means? In a social welfare sense, is a less interactive Internet less optimal? Share your thoughts on interactivity…or in keeping with the post, explain why you would rather not interact.

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5 Responses to “Are Web 2.0 and Internet Interaction Becoming Obsolete?”

  1. Paul A. Rubin on January 22nd, 2013 6:02 pm

    One wild card is improvement in input methods, especially voice input. As voice recognition catches on in mobile devices, it will become easier to leave lengthy comments. (This also means you’ll have to listen to the jerk at the next table leaving his comment.)

  2. Phil Cooke on January 29th, 2013 6:48 pm

    Read the comments section of any news article and I think you’ll agree that less interaction in some respects may be a good thing. I agree though that we’ve reached the point of overload and that, alone, makes me hesitant to try new technologies.

    I think web interaction will move away from the public discussion boards we have now to collaborative technologies that operate much more privately.

  3. Guerrilla Geek on May 13th, 2014 2:46 pm

    Interesting article, let’s hope they aren’t ending.

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