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Tailored Searches and Filter Bubbles

Here’s a little trick to try at home. Pick a topic, any topic. Let’s say, “Greece.” Now, both you and a friend Google it at the same time and compare results. You might be surprised to find how differently they turn out. This is the magic of tailored searches.

As you type away in that unassuming search bar, Google is taking into account a multitude of factors, from your chosen web browser to your past Internet behaviors, in order to generate a list of results that would be most relevant to you. Facebook is using similar algorithms to populate your newsfeeds. That means what you’re seeing isn’t all there is to see, just what aligns with your interests.

In a time when frictionless sharing and tailored searches are the way to go, Eli Pariser argues against the system and warns that it will inevitably trap us in a filter bubble. As he aptly puts it, “The Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.” Meaning you might be seeing a lot more lolcats than world news.

A recent Adweek article also touched on the pitfalls of frictionless sharing. With an Internet model driven by tailored searches and information distribution, people are more likely to miss out on what JWT CEO David Eastman terms “human moments of discovery.” The “A-ha!” moments that come with finding compelling new sites or products will be fewer and farther between and the masses will not be too keen on giving those up. In fact, findings from a recent survey show that although 7 out of 10 participants found tailored information helpful, 8 out of 10 would prefer seeing unfiltered information.

So, frictionless sharing…is it too much of a good thing?

Watch Eli Pariser’s TED Talk here
Read Adweek article on “frictionless sharing” here

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