Thursday, February 11, 2010

Google using social proof to expose slow networks

On the heels of their recent foray into the broadband game, Google just launched a public "YouTube Video Speed History" feature (screenshot above), providing YouTube users with insight into how their video performance compares with other users in their area, other ISPs, and globally. It also subtly (and importantly) shows you the performance of other ISPs near you.

With this passive transparency into your YouTube video performance, Google is using social proof and basic psychology to create a grassroots push for improved performance at the last mile. Dealing with buffering and low quality videos is much easier to ignore than the knowledge that your neighbor is getting a better experience. The genius lies in that fact that no one an complain about Google simply making this data transparent.

The message is simple. Google wants to make the web experience faster, and is using every tool in their tool belt to make this happen. This has already included the launch of Chrome (to push other browsers to get faster), the release of Page Speed and an associated set of best practices (to help developers optimize their page performance), the proposed changes to HTTP (to improve the underlying protocols), a proposal to extend the DNS protocol and the launch of it's own recursive DNS servers (to improve DNS lookup times), and recently the announcement of an experimental fiber network (to own the last mile). Until it has that control, it can make a lot a headway by convincing users that they are getting a bum rap.

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