Activity Streams are not the next Hyperlinks

A few months back, I saw the following tweet in my feed:

Activity streams are the new SERPs. EdgeRank replaces PageRank as the algo to crack. Read comments in http://bit.ly/thinkb4ulike

While I agree that the web will eventually move beyond PageRank and Hyperlinks (for the purposes of relevance), I don’t see how Activity Streams is a viable successor. Hyperlinks have three problems that I detailed in a previous post:

  1. They require content to be modified (to link to other relevant content)
  2. They require content publishers to expend the effort (rather than having readers of content expend the effort)
  3. PageRank is computationally expensive

A better way to do relevance on the web is simple user voting. It works for Amazon, Yelp, Stack Overflow, Seeking Alpha and many other sites. Sure, you have to solve the problem of spammers skewing the voting (more on that at the end of the post), but it fixes all the three problems above. With user voting, content publishers don’t need to modify the content, the readers of the content (not the publishers) expend the effort to vote, and it’s computationally cheaper.

The problem with Activity Streams (and the Facebook Like Platform) is that they¬†are not lightweight enough. Activity Streams requires users to establish long-term relationships with the publisher, and users don’t always want to do that. The fact that I liked one of Tony Delgrosso’s tweets on Twitter does not mean I want to follow him (and commit to receiving future content from that publisher).

An additional problem with the Facebook “Like” platform is that like Hyperlinks, it requires content publishers to make changes to their content (to incorporate the “like” button). This is a significant problem to its adoption. A much better model is Twitter (along with a “like/digg” feature) where users exchange links to content and can like/digg them, thereby voting on the relevance of the underlying content.

Post Script: Earlier in the post, I alluded to the problem of spam users in any user-voting based system. Most user-voting systems have solved the spam problem fairly well (Yelp review filtering, Twitter does a good job with spammers, etc) – but I think there is a need for a system like Facebook Connect, which includes user-reputation as part of login identity. I do think the problem is solvable, though.

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One response to “Activity Streams are not the next Hyperlinks

  1. Pingback: Beyond Hyperlinks and PageRank « the human in the loop

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