Small Screens Lead to Small Worlds Where Most of Us are Left Out

Todd Hoff's picture

In On a Small Screen, Just the Salient Stuff they make an interesting observation that web browsing on an iPhone can actually be superior to its big screen cousins:

A quick trip to Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, Zillow or Powerset, all of which have been redesigned to take advantage of the iPhone, makes it clear that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to exploring cyberspace. By stripping down the Web site interface to the most basic functions, site designers can focus the user�s attention and offer relevant information without distractions.

This sounds great at first. Dump clutter. Get me just what you think I need. Be ruthless. Edit the world for me. The problem is you know what will show up fist are the most popular and profitable items. So in aggregate we end up seeing much less of the world that we would on a big screen . It's the small world phenomena where new nodes are more likely to attach themselves to existing popular node and we'll see that same power law type friend and follower figures we see on Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed. A few people have many 1000s of followers. Most have close to none. And the world is far smaller than it would have otherwise been because it is being viewed thrugh a small screen. To control information flows you'll just need to control the first small screen full of information because like for Google search results, few people venture past the first page.

So small iPhone screens mean the rest of us are banished even further out in the long tail galapagos.