Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 6, 201010:04 PM

The Real-Time Web Is A Big Problem For The Web

As we move closer and closer to the real-time Web, we are already encountering instances where the Web - as we know it - seems old and antiquated.

Here's the scenario: this past week, I received a breaking news tweet that a  plane had crashed near the airport in Phoenix. Immediately, I hopped over to CNN to get more details, but nothing. Nada. Zilch. We tend to forget that it takes a while for the producers of the website to gather the content (text, audio, images, video), get the piece produced and published online (it only takes a second to shoot a tweet out). It's not the first time either. When something wonky happens with one of my online web services, I'm quick to hop over and do a search to see if anyone else is having a similar issue, but nothing. Nada. Zilch. However, a quick scan of the people I am following on Twitter or by shooting out a quick tweet, and voila! Answers... galore.

This is a big challenge for people publishing content to the Web.

Our expectations are changing. Quickly. How can Google, Bing and Yahoo! not know when something is down? Don't the more specialized searches you're doing online return results that feel either gamed (like someone manipulated their SEO just to get the result to the top) or somewhat old (like the answer to your question was posted in 1998)? Google has been tinkering with real-time search results (and so have the other search engines) in it's core search product (and in some instances, they even place the news feed at the top of the organic search results).

Still, the world changes. Our needs change. Our expectations become (somewhat) unrealistic.

Did you see the news about the 10-year-old boy who had his custom wheelchair damaged by an airline? Regardless of how the airline responded via the Social Media (or any media channels), the real lesson here is that people who have access to everyone in real-time have no definition for the word "patience."  This has nothing to do with who is in the right or how they handled the Social Media hailstorm, what's important to recognize here is that if a tweet is not responded to (and favorably) instantly, it spreads (through retweets and beyond) and even though this issue was resolved in less than 24 hours, many people thought that it took way too long and that the resolution may not have come had it not been for the real-time Web.

We tell brands to listen, but do we tell people to be realistic with their expectations?

There is no doubt that brands must listen and respond appropriately to what is being said about them (and yes, this includes moments of crisis along with moments that could turn into a crisis if they are not listening), but clicking on that link about the plane crash and seeing nothing caused me to think to myself, "how could there be nothing about this on the Website?" before realizing that it's not the news outlet that sucked... it's my expectations. They have become unrealistic. Amazing how quickly the world changes. It wasn't too long ago that we debated how the Internet would kill newspapers because by the time the paper hit your porch in the morning, the content was already almost a day old. Now, the content that isn't updated in real-time - as everything happens - is also starting to feel a little old.

What now?

By Mitch Joel


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