Internet defaults (Ricky Weekly #25)

This is where I share 3 things every week with my friends and anyone else interested.

A picture from my life:

I went to Sacramento this morning to root for David at the California International Marathon. The biggest takeaway is that I’d never want to do this because 80% of the runners I saw at the finish line look like they are in extreme pain. The other 20% are crazy people like this guy.

Thing on my mind:

I’ve been thinking about today’s Internet “defaults.” Here are some, can you come up with any more?

Persistence: Snapchat’s ephemerality is a big deal because once something is on the Internet, it tends to persist. We don’t have the power to remove it so it takes a product like Snapchat to fight persistence. In Europe they even have legislation to enforce your “right to be forgotten”. But while individual messages or stories can disappear, but what about part of your online “persona”?


Growth: Everything eventually grows, even this newsletter, because the Internet is efficient at discovery. When things grow they can get ruined. We don’t have products that can help us fight growth because that’s usually counterproductive to business goals, but we should.

Real identity: Before Facebook I was on the web largely anonymously. Facebook changed the default to real identities. We still have anonymous and pseudonymous areas, but much, much less.

Abuse:Godwin’s Law?” Over time, discussions eventually devolve to trolling and comparisons to Nazis or Hitler because we can’t help ourselves. Just like the default to persistence, we need products to help us fight our terrible nature.

Lists: I’ve mentioned this in my essay “The arc of social” about why I think lists are unwieldy. Contact lists, email lists, group member lists, friend lists, follow/follower lists, etc. Teenagers with a lot of time and need for social constantly prune their follow/follower lists on their “Finstas” so they can be more comfortable being themselves. That’s a lot of work and it’s a proxy that we need to re-think lists as defaults.

Instant: If you’re a consumer, you can get any show, music, food, ride, product, etc basically instantly, but there are still lots of complex tasks, especially in business, where this needs to happen. That’s why the “Uberization” is still happening as people attempt to make more instances of “instant” happen. My first SaaS analytics startup made gathering and analyzing social analytics instant. My second tech-enabled PR startup attempted to make the process of getting press instant (way harder…).

Answers: Related to “instant,” when we Google now, we get answers that we want. We’ve gone from Yahoo directories where you can just keep exploring and discovering to Google giving you a page of results to Google just giving you the frickin answer. That’s fine, but the less Google wants to help us discover, the more of an opening it creates. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass he mentioned that in the creative process, he doesn’t actually want answers because he wants to figure out all kinds of directions he can go in, so he goes to the library instead of Google. Fortunately, I have talented friends working on making discovery great again (eg Vibhu @ b8ta, Ashvin @ Tophatter, Ben @ Pinterest).

Public availability: Or just “free.” The spirit of the early Internet was about free access to information, and then the advertising-supported model made it economically viable. It took a gargantuan effort to make people pay for music and now companies are trying to make us pay for text, but because of this default, we’re annoyed every time we click on a paywalled article. Similarly we also feel annoyed when we click on a link to a private Instagram post. When products don’t assume this default, like in China, new opportunities appear. Connie Chan has a nice post about Chinese products and their business models.

Betting a product to fight any one of these defaults is interesting because we haven’t had the opportunity to iterate on them, but now we’re getting to do it.

Can you come up with more Internet defaults?

Piece of content I recommend:

Bob Igor Teaches Business Strategy and Leadership on Masterclass ($)

I randomly decided to watch this not expecting anything and I was pleasantly surprised. I really liked his humble and authentic demeanor and his stories about acquiring Pixar, negotiating to buy 20th Century Fox, etc. were all fascinating. I recommend listening to just the audio like it’s a podcast because there’s nothing compelling to see.

If you don’t want to pay, I also recommend a free 2-min clip about a North Korean defector but here’s how you watch it.

  1. Watch it

  2. Read the first comment

  3. Watch it again

As always, you can find out what I’m thinking in more real-time on Twitter and my essays are on my website. My latest essay is called Single-serving friends