Irony for the Holiday

I had thought that one big win for the internet, in terms of its social implications, was that it lets viewers be more active. Instead of sitting on the couch narcotized by the drug in front of you, you surf, make choices and actively explore. Internet utopians (and we’ve all drunk that kool-aid in one way or another) have touted this for years. It will change our consciousness, make us smarter, wiser. It will reduce the power of advertisers and networks and yes, even governments, to manipulate us and control what we think.

Well, now it seems that YouTube isn’t so happy with the active nature of internet video consumption. Why? Because it’s not so great for … advertising. What they really want is a passive audience: people that will sit still on the couch without leaving or changing a channel or clicking a mouse. They’re developing YouTube Leanback. (Yup — Orwell could not come up with names like this. They’re too good.) Quoted in a NY Times article Sunday, Jamie Davidson, a YouTube product manager, says, “We’re looking at how to push users into passive-consumption mode, a lean-back experience.” They want to limit “decision points” — moments between videos when you might click that mouse and go elsewhere. “There’s no browsing, no searching, no clicking.” said Hunter Walk, a YouTube program manager.

NowMov, a startup in San Francisco, offers a preview — popular YouTube videos streamed continuously. “If too much of your brain is occupied with the process of choosing, it takes you out of the experience of watching,” explains James Black, a NowMov co-founder. His goal is to free users from “the tyranny of choice.”

Yea, I guess that’s it. What’s wrong with the internet? Too much surfing.

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