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How does Google Fiber (Gigabit Internet) affect User Behavior?

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How does Google Fiber (Gigabit Internet) affect User Behavior?

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[Originally posted here ]

I consider myself a bit of a multitasker. Not necessarily by choice, but because I don’t have ANY patience for load time while researching, browsing or communicating online. During my standard web browsing session I’ll click on some sub-page link for something in one tab, jump to another to change the music track I’m listening to, jump to another to google something and then jump back to the original tab with the finally loaded sub-page I wanted to read. This sub-page didn't have horrible load times, but it wasn't instant, which afforded me the opportunity to juggle 2 other tabs while waiting the 2-3 seconds for my lousy cable provider to deliver the page I wanted to read. I somehow feel that I've become a more efficient and productive human by shaving off 1-3 seconds of wait time by multitasking like this for the hundreds of pages I hit every day. Think of what I could do with all that time!? Realistically, that doesn't amount to much but it feels like an eternity.

One day last week, I was doing my typical browser tab juggling while listening to a local high school radio station WOVI (which I highly recommend) and the student DJs started to express concern about Google Fiber. What!? Who could possibly have anything bad to say about Gigabit Internet?  They went on to say:

“I really don’t want Google Fiber, I’m worried about what it would do to my already out of control video game usage, video streaming and redditing. Lag is pretty much the only reason I ever get my homework done…”

This got me thinking… The attention span for this student and his intolerance for lag or load times isn’t all that different from the rest of us. We’ve all bailed on a website that takes longer 2 seconds to load (relevant study). Who knows how many of those we’ve accidentally tolerated by jumping to another task or tab while they load. Assuming my local ISP/last-mile is the bottleneck today would instant gratification for all web services eliminate my browser tab juggling? Perhaps it would increase with so many options available to me at once? Will we see average time on site change now that we haven’t “invested” several seconds waiting for a page to load? Back in 2009 Patrick Dubroy & Mozilla both evaluated the average number of tabs a user has open; somewhere between 1 and 5. I’d love to see that same survey performed in Kansas City among Google Fiber users.


To quote my co-worker Walter Falby – “If you never had to wait for anything, then you wouldn’t notice fast.” So if instant becomes the norm, will my desire to stray and open concurrent tabs change? Will I find myself focusing on the content at hand? According to Linda Stone, we’ve evolved into a state of “continuous partial attention” where a human’s desire to remain connected in an effort to not miss anything. In this case, instant page delivery via Gigabit Internet speeds might very well increase concurrent browsing habits.

Unless I hear from someone in KC about the effects this has on usage, I guess I’ll have to wait until Google Fiber comes to my neighborhood :(

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