Comply! Resistance is futile.

A couple of interesting items in the news intersected for me this week. The first was Google’s announcement that it was going to down-rank web sites that are not, according to Google, mobile-friendly. They’ve built a little app  for this that lets you test whether your site is about to get dinged. Easy enough, you type in your URL, it searches through your site and then, you either get the green good, or the red bad. If you get the latter, the app tells you what you need to fix. Choosing not to fix it, means that when folks search for you or your product or service on a mobile device, you won’t be very high on the list. From a BrandChannel post this week,

“Forrester Research reports that just 38 percent of business websites are currently optimized for mobile—while 86 percent of all US smartphone users search via Google. “Businesses must improve the usability of their websites on smartphones and tablets now, or risk being buried among 177 million websites in Google search,” Forrester noted.”

So it would appear that complying with Google’s algorithms is no longer an option if you want your site to retain its ranking. This strikes me as an interesting type of forced compliance. I don’t think I would call it bullying, but maybe it’s somewhere between that and peer pressure. Based on Forrester’s research a lot of companies didn’t think it was all that important to be mobile-friendly, but according to Google, there should be a penalty for that kind of thinking and they have the power to enforce it. Oh, and by the way, you don’t get a vote in this. If you disagree or feel that the “big picture” nature of your site doesn’t translate the smart phone world you either comply or the result could impede the traffic on your site. The argument I’m sure is that a poor mobile experience is just as damaging as a lower ranking. But what about those users who are just searching and then, for a better experience decided to view it on their big screen when they get home? It might not happen, because in your new lower ranking, they might not find you at all. Resistance is futile.

The next item across my desk was a call for academic papers for a conference coming up in Osaka, Japan. The name jumped out at me: 5th International Workshop on Pervasive Eye Tracking and Mobile Eye-Based Interaction (PETMEI 2015). Investigating further was this description:

The goal of the workshop is to bring together members in the ubiquitous computing, context-aware computing, computer vision, machine learning and eye tracking community to exchange ideas and to discuss different techniques and applications for pervasive eye tracking.” 

But wait, there’s more. Here are some of the topics of interest:

– Eye tracking technologies on mobile devices

– Gaze and eye movement analysis methods

– Fusion of gaze with other modalities

– Integration of pervasive eye tracking and context-aware computing

– User studies on pervasive eye tracking

– Eye tracking for pervasive displays

– Gaze-based interaction with outdoor spaces

Apparently, there is a fairly developed need to know what we look at when we are computing or when we are on a mobile device—and maybe even when we are just gazing around and it’s pervasive!

What do these two news items have to do with each other? Directly, nothing, but putting on my Envisionist glasses I see a huge corporation exerting its will in a wave-of-influence sort of way, and I see that there are technologies that we have virtually no exposure to, that will change the way technology reacts to us and the way we react to technology. For me, it underscores how gradually we just adapt to new technologies, because we really have no choice—even though we most definitely do. The power brokers of the future will be the peddlers of all manner of “better ways” to do everything from browsing on your mobile device, to shopping, to learning, to health, to lifestyle, and so on. The proposition will be this: get better at these things or get left behind. Kind of a form of technological Darwinism, and like pervasive eye tracking, we may not even know it’s happening.

I’ll stop there… for now.

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