Eyal makes a good argument: that virality — users inviting their friends to try an app — is less important (and more annoying) than habitual use of apps: habit is the new viral.
Nir Eyal via TechCrunch
The Curated Web Will Run On Habits
Increasingly, companies will become experts at designing user habits. Curated Web companies already rely on these methods. This new breed of company, defined by the ability to help users find only the content they care about, includes such white-hot companies as Pinterest and Tumblr. These companies have habit formation embedded in their DNA. This is because data collection is at the heart of any Curated Web business and to succeed, they must predict what users will think is most personally relevant.
Curated Web companies can only improve if users tell their systems what they want to see more of. If users use the service sparingly, it is less valuable than if they use it habitually. The more the user engages with a Curated Web company, the more data the company has to tailor and improve the user’s experience. This self-improving feedback loop has the potential to be more useful – and more addictive — than anything we’ve seen before.
However, I think Eyal’s characterization — helping users ‘find only the content they care about’ — is too limited. Steve Jobs said the users don’t know what they want, so by extension, they don’t know what they care about.
Getting back to Eyal’s habituation remark, these new tools will have to meld into the user’s existing behaviors and amplify them in some adjacent way.
For example, I’ve started to experiment with the user of Timely.is instead of Bitly as a way to publish Tweets. It ‘fits the hand’ in the sense that it works much like Bitly: a bookmarklet in the browser that creates an editable tweet with a shortened URL back to the source. Like Bitly, it provides stats on clickthroughs, but adds one additional feature: the ability to queue tweets and have them post over time.
So, I am able to develop a new Timely habit because it is similar to my habituated use of Bitly, but adding an additional capability. And there is a viral vestige: the promotion of Timely in the footer of the tweets.