The Influence of Homogeneity on Choice and the Web

One thing that consistently occurs in markets is a trend towards homogeneity, it’s nothing new, it’s been happening for millennia. The occurrence in the web is a bit disturbing, however, because of time and focus. Alas, I’m getting ahead of myself, I should probably talk about the various forms of homogeneity, that occur naturally and in our daily lives.

Homogeneity, in nature, it is as common as a step in the evolutionary process. As species adapt, the mean difference, across the whole corpus of the species, becomes smaller, and the species pick up both positives and negatives, that affect the species future. The huge negative for homogeneity is that the corpus, minus the mutated(outliers), is that susceptibility to a common tragedy. A tragedy, by contagion,  can be common, if a disease does infect one entity, it can easily spread to those that are also susceptible, though the entities with mutated genetics, assuming theses genetics, increase resistance or provide immunity to the disease, or any common tragedy.  If the tragedy is large enough, it can cause the mean difference to go up, or even hit an maxima,  which it comes back down from in favor of the  mutates.

Homogeneity, in business and our daily lives, occurs quite frequently, and it is an influencing factor over choice. To look into the idea of choice and homogeneity, you don’t have to look further than skin deep, or in this case clothing. Every one of us has a desire to fit in, and this desire results in us commonly grouping, even, subconsciously with those who are like us. From this desire, we find ways to look, sound, or interact the same way; our desire also has a side effect, it removes the necessity of thought in many circumstances, just go with what everyone else is doing. Of course, there will always be a few who don’t want to be classified, or collated with others, sadly they create their own group, through these actions: non-conformists.

To see the corporate side of homogeneity, look into the restaurant/fast food industry, or supermarkets. Mom & Pop’s have been gobbled up by the McDonalds and Wal-Marts , because the layperson doesn’t know what they have to offer. If you go with one of these household names, you have a good idea that the food is going to be decent, or that the store will have what you’re looking for within its doors. This homogeneity, decreases local competition, but it’s okay, because it saved the average consumer time and money, because these chains get reductions for ordering extremely large amounts of goods. Of course, some people will stick to the Mom & Pop’s, to be contrarian, or because they know it just as well and it has become ritual.

When it comes to the web, however, the steps toward homogeneity become much easier, but there is even fewer checks and balances, than in any of the other cases. We interact with the web on a time basis, and this time is limited, so we find a subset of sites to stay in constant contact with, normally staying within a triumvirate: search, networking, and news-history. However, the common solutions for these problems are reduced to a common set of sites, there are alternatives, but it requires more rigor on part of the consumer. So what do we do, we choose, by what provides the most tools, where are my friends, and how can I find out more.

What happens when you’re playing this zero-sum game of choice, Louis Gray says there is no zero-sum game?  You end up selecting those that might not be the best, but save you time and trouble. Want to use e-mail, read blogs, or just IM with friends, you can go use any random email host, any old RSS-reader, or link walk the sites, or anyone who offers an IM service, OR you can just use Google, and get all of these services simultaneously, plus several dozen other services.  Do you see what just happened? Multiple services where just reduced, they were hit by a common tragedy, and now there is one hyper-efficient service provider, which most people are going to use because it’s simple, and they don’t have to think about where they are going to go, or what they are going to do.  Where can I share images, discuss things with my close friends and family, and provide a set of personal information for people that people can use as entrance sources? Well there are a large number of services that will let you share images, and any number of places and ways to share that information, but to truly access everyone, without making them do work hard, and that site is becoming Facebook. The case is you don’t see a corresponding 1-1 gain loss, gains are primarily individualistic, while losses are primarily distributed, there are cases where the inverse occurs, but they are few and far between.

These companies are becoming goliaths, that are going to harm the web, if they continue to grow, it won’t happen immediately, but even now Facebook is trying to change the rules. And you can say all you want that there are other services out there, I’ll admit that, but when you’re playing a zero-sum game, based on how much time you spend interacting in different locations, you have to focus on where you’ll get the optimal return.  There will always be alternatives, for those who truly want them, but for the general public, they don’t mind as far as they know, everyone does the majority of the same things on the web. Until, something happens that causes the homogenous species, to see what the mutates have already seen and adapted for we’re looking at an interesting ride for the next 2-3 years.