Convenience Trumps Freedom

This article came out months ago, and until now, I’ve resisted reading it, if only because of the sensationalist headline.

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet | Magazine (h/t to OpenAppMkt for pushing me)

Setting aside the graphic, which is based on potentially false data interpretation, the core arguments made by Chris Anderson (Mr. The Long Tail) and Michael Wolf both hold water.

They’re not actually counterpoints, but rather, complimentary  points placing blame on we, the users, and they, the media moguls.

Chris’ points ring very true for me, based on my personal experiences and my observation of users. We crave convenience over freedom because freedom is messy and time-consuming.

I especially like his comparisons to other mature industries, railroads, telephones and electricity. I’d throw automobiles in there as well.

Commoditization of an industry drives out the small players.

Michael also makes some good points about content distribution, i.e. delivering what people want in ways they want. This is another convenience argument.

Would you rather bounce around various media properties to watch TV episodes, several requiring different browser plugins, or pay a small fee to have these same episodes delivered to your iPad?

Again, convenience has a cost.

Anyway, these are interesting perspectives, well worth the read.

Thoughts? Comments.




  1. Incidentally, Tim Wu’s new book “The Master Switch” seems to discuss these same ideas.

    “My book is a history of information empires in America and the rise and fall of companies like ABC, NBC, AT&T, and eventually Facebook and Google. It’s largely a story of the American affection for information monopolists and the consequences of that fondness.”

  2. To further expand – many of the designs issues you discuss here are related. “Apple – it just works.” Yes, it does, but at a price as it’s a pretty closed eco-system (for good or bad), that applies to both hardware and software. It’s even worse on the iPhone/iPad. You’re trading a very good user experience for less freedom.

    Most people don’t care how it’s delivered, via an app or a browser, they just want it.

    We’re the only ones who really care about the delivery…

  3. Well yeah, I agree with your points about delivery. What does Android have to do with this though? It’s another ecosystem (sure, a free as in gratis one) that’s contributing to the move away from traditional web apps delivered in a browser.

    I guess need to clarify freedom means libre here, not gratis. So, Android is on the hook too.

  4. I think I was trying to say that Android, being “free”, is more open to customization (CyanogenMod, and the “one-click” root process ;), thus the convenience factor is trumped by the “freedom” factor. I’m free to break the crap out of my own phone if I want (I suppose I could do the same with the iPhone, jailbreaking), I’m free to put whatever I want on there in terms of applications. The same environment doesn’t really exist for the iPhone (unless jailbroken).

    Who knows what I was trying to say? (Kidney-punch!)

    What I read in your post was not necessarily about apps vs. browser, but the broader question of freedom to do whatever you want verses a wall-garden approach. (Have I made up for anything?)

  5. Hmm. Android is still a walled-garden for apps, but I suppose it might get easement bc it’s Java-based vs. Objective C, i.e. open vs. proprietary. Plus, Android’s stock browser is much better than iOS’.

    Still, following the mobile app model puts Android (and iOS, BlackBerry, webOS, Symbian/QT) on the hook for ruining the WWW as we know it.

    The convenience thing really applies to regular people too, not nerds like us who mod stuff.

  6. The general idea of continuous growth is already a fail, the black swan wasn’t seen at all. Specific fails on most every page. I understand your attention span, the thing is long, there are a couple of correct predictions (like how muslim societies will have… difficulties, but missing the biggest fails there). I found it more fascinating than the usual futurist drivel, though the over-optimism wears thin. #Iwantmyflyingcar

  7. My attention is valuable 🙂 I guess I’m annoyed that they don’t offer a single page view, but this was 1997. More pages means more ads. I’ll put it in my read later mental queue.

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