Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Choices Online Get Easier, When They've Been Made for You

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Choices Online Get Easier, When They've Been Made for You

Article excerpt

Top 10 lists, most-liked posts and the like define what is successful in business and culture, but they also lead to homogenization.

The digital age has us living in a perpetual and pervasive popularity contest.

Leader boards, top 10 lists, most-liked posts and most-clicked search results define what is successful in business and culture.

Amazon's lists of the top-selling electronics, top-selling books or top-selling electronic books, each with subcategories, tell us what to buy. The top choices of a Google results list are the ones we click on, never the ones at the bottom of the page.

Being at the top of these lists can generate substantial windfalls. The iTunes App Store, where apps like Angry Birds, Words With Friends and Pages have spent months at the top of the charts, help the app makers collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, while those who cannot get that visibility founder in obscurity.

"In some ways, the growth of the Internet has forced companies to create filters that help you locate and correlate things you need; lists are the perfect filter for that," said Matthew O. Jackson, an economist at Stanford University in California who studies social networks and game theory. "But being 11th on a top 10 list on the App Store is a lot different than being 10th on that list."

Once at the very top of those iTunes charts, it takes a long time to fall off. And with good reason. Would you rather sift through the 600,000 apps in the store or quickly browse the top 25 list?

"We have run into the filter bubble issue, which is a homogenization of culture," said Clay Johnson, author of "The Information Diet," a new book that argues that consumers should take responsibility for the information they seek and consume online. There are plenty of other games besides Angry Birds, he says, but you would not know it from looking at Apple's charts. …

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