The platforms of the many turn into platforms of the few

Local stardom

One of the most interesting trends of the internet in the last decade, is what I like to call local stardom. Not everyone is the same on the internet and it is caused by algorithms. I call it local stardom.

The amount of content we need to consume is so vast, we use algorithms to filter it. Algorithms analyze content and your behavior to present you with the most relevant information. Sounds useful right?

Algorithms are just rules encoded into software. Nobody knows exactly what the rules are for platforms like Facebook, Google or Instagram, but we can infer them based on action-response results of our activities. They even influence our behavior because more likes is better.

The problem arises that some people figure out those rules and start exploiting them to gain more exposure. Many of these people are professionals – sometimes whole organizations are setup for just that purpose like Buzzfeed.

The end result is local stardom. Local stars own a particular segment – let’s say cooking or skateboarding. People interested in those topics will automatically gravitate to these local stars because that’s what the algorithms guide them towards to and that in turn increases their local stardom.

Google as a search engine is not exempt either. For instance, when you search on my name, Google presents my LinkedIn profile first. My blog is second. LinkedIn owns people’s names thanks to Google’s algorithm. My blog is second while it carries my name and the domain is older than LinkedIn.

Local stardom exploits algorithmic ranking by reverse-engineering the rules. I always smile when one of the platforms changes their algorithm and all the local stars are in up and arms because their content is not getting the same reach as before. It’s a game.

To see it in another way, the top 1% producers get 80% of all the attention / traffic.

Why is that a problem? It reduces the diversity of the internet and makes it a less interesting place. It turns platforms into entertainment and marketing machines. It turned social networks into social media. Somewhere along the we chose to label Facebook as a social media platform and no longer a social network – it’s fascinating.

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