Do you remember how "stickiness" used to be considered a virtue online?
I can recall it being praised as such in a newsroom I worked as late as 2007.
However, a story from 1997 about this very same "virtue" really leapt at me when reading Steven Levy's new book on Life in the GooglePlex.
Back then what was to become Google search was called BackRub and there's a lesson for many a company in this anecdote. Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were looking for investors and/or a potential partnership, and met up with Excite CEO George Bell, a former Times Mirror magazine executive, with this object in mind.
The two teams fired up BackRub in one window and Excite in another:
«The first query they tested was "Internet"... Excite's first results were Chinese web pages where the English word "Internet" stood out among a jumble of Chinese characters. Then the team typed "Internet" into BackRub. The first two results delivered pages that showed you how to use browsers. It was exactly the kind of helpful result that would most likely satisfy someone who made the query.
«Bell was visibly upset. The Stanford product was too good. If Excite was to host a search engine that instantly gave people the information they sought, he explained, the users would leave the site instantly. Since his ad revenue came from people staying on the site – "stickiness" was the most desired metric in websites at the time – using BackRub's technology would be counterproductive....»
Needless to say, the deal never happened.
I reviewed this book over Easter for work( the review's here, in Norwegian), and might return to it again on this blog as it was a very interesting read – and another good book from Levy.
I spent some 30 hours reading this, in Kindle for iPad, which is an amazingly long time for me as I'm normally a very quick reader – but it was absolutely worth it even though I kept checking the percentage left with repeated amazement as I was moving through the last third (just natural impatience on my part).