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The McDonaldization Of The Internet

Or, Respect The Website's Author-ih-tah!

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A new report from Hitwise highlights a trend that matches what’s going on in the brick-and-mortar world: The mainstreaming of everything. It also shows that Internet users value what they perceive as authority websites, and that perception is a collective one—or if you prefer, a brand on the collective psyche.

Respect The Website's Author-ih-tah!

We know that Google’s authority is well respected, and that Google views Wikipedia as an authority source, even when universities and other scholastic enterprises don’t. Searchers are evidencing that they trust Google more than they trust Professor Plum, considering Wikipedia gets over half of its traffic from the dominant search engine.

Hitwise UK’s VP of Research, Heather Hopkins wondered where users went after Wikipedia. (She wonders this, it would seem, in about 1.5 year cycles; the last time was October, 2006.) Outside of those parenthetical whispers, it looks like a bit has changed in two years.

What hasn’t changed: Google sends Wikipedia over half of its traffic, but this is down three percent from two years ago, and surfers continue on to authority sites afterward, either by returning to Google or by floating on to computers-and-internet-focused sites, entertainment authority sites, or to social networks.

In fact, by category, where users go after Wikipedia appears unchanged, except that they go to computers-and-internet-focused sites with a bit more frequency. Though the peek at user behavior in 2006 focused on UK users, and this current one focuses on US users, their downstream visits are similar. After Wikipedia, they go to Google, IMDB, Google Images, MySpace, and Amazon.

However, here’s one big difference in 2008: YouTube. YouTube is the fourth most visited site after Wikipedia these days.

Another big difference: The types of sites visited after Wikipedia in 2006 were much more varied. In 2008, like the choices you have of where to eat and which stores to shop at after you eat, where Internet users go after Wikipedia is much more streamlined, a list reading like a who’s-who of corporate homogeneity.

Yes, it’s infecting us on the Internet, too.

Nearly 10 percent of Wikipedians return to Google. Over 3 percent travel over to MySpace. Just under 2.5 percent carry on to the Internet Movie Database, and 2.4 percent go to YouTube. After that it’s Yahoo, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Search, Google Image Search, Windows Live Mail, and Amazon.

That’s your top ten, like driving down the road in any fine American town to see Wal-Mart, Target, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and KFC.

Oh, and don’t forget Applebee’s and Outback, if you have a little more time and money to burn.

It gets a little more varied after the top ten, but the big boys are still clumped together like a bunch of Sumo-recruited offensive linemen: EBay, Facebook, Ask.com, Wiktionary, MSN, Dictionary.com, Gmail, Yahoo Image Search, GameFAQs, Wikimedia Commons.

Welcome to the McDonaldization of the Internet. Just goes to show you how important a good brand and great authority are out there. It also means the smaller, more locally flavored establishments will have to work harder to get noticed.

 

The McDonaldization Of The Internet
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