图形源于：BBC葡萄牙共和国（República Portuguesa卡塔 尔（英语：State of Qatar）语
Aza Raskin from the Centre for Humane Technology said social media
companies deliberately use addictive technology in their apps in order
to lure us in to spending as much time on their platforms as possible.
The dominance of Google, Facebook and Amazon is bad for consumers and
人文技巧中央（Centre for Humane
Aza Raskin invented the endless scroll – the app feature that means
you don’t have to click to get to the next page and can keep scrolling
for far longer than maybe necessary or healthy.
Jan 18th 2018
NOT long ago, being the boss of a big Western tech firm was a dream job.
As the billions rolled in, so did the plaudits: Google,
Facebook, Amazon and others were making the world a better place. Today
these companies are accused of being BAADD—big, anti-competitive,
addictive and destructive to democracy. Regulators fine them,
politicians grill them and one-time backers warn of their power
to cause harm.
Aza says he did not intend to hook users with it but says the
business model of many social media companies is designed to maximise
user time online. He says this encourages designers to come up with
technological tricks that hook users.
How Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest Hook Users
Much of this techlash is misguided. The presumption that big
businesses must necessarily be wicked is plain wrong. Apple is
to be admired as the world’s most valuable listed company for the simple
reason that it makes things people want to buy, even while facing fierce
competition. Many online services would be worse if their providers were
smaller. Evidence for the link between smartphones and unhappiness is
weak. Fake news is not only an online phenomenon.
The tactics that the best digital brands use to stay relevant in users’
minds and lives.
But big tech platforms, particularly Facebook, Google and Amazon, do
indeed raise a worry about fair competition. That is partly because
they often benefit from legal exemptions. Unlike publishers, Facebook
and Google are rarely held responsible for what users do on them; and
for years most American buyers on Amazon did not pay sales tax. Nor do
the titans simply compete in a market. Increasingly, they are the market
itself, providing the infrastructure (or “platforms”) for much of the
digital economy. Many of their services appear to be free, but users
“pay” for them by giving away their data. Powerful though they already
are, their huge stockmarket valuations suggest that investors are
counting on them to double or even triple in size in the next decade.
Sandy Parakilas, who was a platform operations manager at Facebook
in 2011 and 2012, said there was definitely an awareness that Facebook
was habit-forming when he worked at the company.
Type the name of almost any successful consumer web company into your
search bar and add the word “addict” after it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Try
“Facebook addict” or “Twitter addict” or even “Pinterest addict,” and
you’ll soon get a slew of results from hooked users and observers
deriding the narcotic-like properties of these sites. How is it that
these companies, producing little more than bits of code displayed on a
screen, can seemingly control users’ minds? Why are these sites so
addictive, and what does their power mean for the future of the web?
There is thus a justified fear that the tech titans will use their power
to protect and extend their dominance, to the detriment of consumers
The tricky task for policymakers is to restrain them without unduly
We’re on the precipice of a new digital era. As infinite distractions
compete for our attention, companies are learning to master new tactics
to stay relevant in users’ minds and lives. Today, just amassing
millions of users is no longer good enough. Companies increasingly find
that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits
they create. But as some companies are just waking up to this new
reality, others are already cashing in.
The less severe contest
Facebook and Instagram have told the BBC that their apps are
designed to bring people together and that they never set out to create
The platforms have become so dominant because they benefit from
“network effects”. Size begets size: the more sellers Amazon,
say, can attract, the more buyers will shop there, which attracts more
sellers, and so on. By some estimates, Amazon captures over 40% of
online shopping in America. With more than 2bn monthly users, Facebook
holds sway over the media industry. Firms cannot do without Google,
which in some countries processes more than 90% of web searches.
Facebook and Google control two-thirds of America’s online ad revenues.
A company that forms strong user habits enjoys several benefits to its
bottom line. For one, it creates associations with “internal triggers”
in users’ minds. That is to say, users come to the site without any
external prompting. Instead of relying on expensive marketing or
worrying about differentiation, habit-forming companies get users to cue
themselves to action by attaching their services to the users’ daily
routines and emotions. A cemented habit is when users unconsciously
think, I’m bored, and Facebook instantly comes to mind. They think, I
wonder what’s going on in the world? and before rational thought kicks
in, Twitter is the answer. The first-to-mind solution wins.
America’s trustbusters have given tech giants the benefit of the
doubt. They look for consumer harm, which is hard to establish when
prices are falling and services are “free”. The firms themselves stress
that a giant-killing startup is just a click away and that they
could be toppled by a new technology, such as the blockchain. Before
Google and Facebook, Alta Vista and MySpace were the bee’s knees.
Who remembers them?
However, the barriers to entry are rising. Facebook not only owns the
world’s largest pool of personal data, but also its biggest “social
graph”—the list of its members and how they are connected. Amazon has
more pricing information than any other firm. Voice assistants, such as
Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, will give them even more
control over how people experience the internet. China’s tech firms have
the heft to compete, but are not about to get unfettered access
to Western consumers.
But how do companies create a connection with the internal cues needed
to form habits? They manufacture desire. While fans of Mad Men are
familiar with how the ad industry once created consumer desire during
Madison Avenue’s golden era, those days are long gone. A multiscreen
world, with ad-wary consumers and a lack of ROI metrics, has rendered
Don Draper’s big-budget brainwashing useless to all but the biggest
brands. Instead, startups manufacture desire by guiding users through a
series of experiences designed to create habits. I call these
experiences Hooks, and the more often users run through them, the more
likely they are to self-trigger.
If this trend runs its course, consumers will suffer as the tech
industry becomes less vibrant. Less money will go into startups,
most good ideas will be bought up by the titans and, one way or another,
the profits will be captured by the giants.
I wrote Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products to help others
understand what is at the heart of habit-forming technology. The book
highlights common patterns I observed in my career in the video gaming
and online advertising industries. While my model is generic enough for
a broad explanation of habit formation, I’ll focus on applications in
consumer internet here.
The early signs are already visible. The European Commission has accused
Google of using control of Android, its mobile operating system, to
give its own apps a leg up. Facebook keeps buying firms which could
one day lure users away: first Instagram, then WhatsApp and most
recently tbh, an app that lets teenagers send each other compliments
anonymously. Although Amazon is still increasing competition in
aggregate, as industries from groceries to television can attest, it
can also spot rivals and squeeze them from the market.
From “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal
The rivalry remedy
endless scroll Infiniti下拉滚动
What to do? In the past, societies have tackled monopolies either by
breaking them up, as with Standard Oil in 1911, or by regulating them as
a public utility, as with AT&T in 1913. Today both those approaches have
big drawbacks. The traditional tools of utilities regulation, such
as price controls and profit caps, are hard to apply, since most
products are free and would come at a high price in forgone
investment and innovation. Likewise, a full-scale break-up would
cripple the platforms’ economies of scale, worsening the service
they offer consumers. And even then, in all likelihood one of the
Googlettes or Facebabies would eventually sweep all before it as
the inexorable logic of network effects reasserted itself.
The trigger is the actuator of a behavior — the spark plug in the Hook
model. Triggers come in two types: external and internal. Habit-forming
technologies start by alerting users with external triggers like an
email, a link on a website, or the app icon on a phone. By cycling
continuously through these hooks, users begin to form associations with
internal triggers, which become attached to existing behaviors and
emotions. Soon users are internally triggered every time they feel a
certain way. The internal trigger becomes part of their routine
behavior, and the habit is formed.
The lack of a simple solution deprives politicians of easy
slogans, but does not leave trustbusters impotent. Two broad changes
of thinking would go a long way towards sensibly taming the titans.
The first is to make better use of existing competition law.
Trustbusters should scrutinise mergers to gauge whether a deal is
likely to neutralise a potential long-term threat, even if the
target is small at the time. Such scrutiny might have prevented
Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and Google’s of Waze, which makes
navigation software. To ensure that the platforms do not favour their
own products, oversight groups could be set up to deliberate on
complaints from rivals—a bit like the independent “technical committee”
created by the antitrust case against Microsoft in 2001. Immunity to
content liability must go, too.
business model 商业形式
For example, suppose Barbra, a young woman in Pennsylvania, happens to
see a photo in her Facebook newsfeed taken by a family member from a
rural part of the state. It’s a lovely photo, and since she’s planning a
trip there with her brother Johnny, the trigger intrigues her.
Second, trustbusters need to think afresh about how tech markets
work. A central insight, one increasingly discussed among economists
and regulators, is that personal data are the currency in which
customers actually buy services. Through that prism, the tech titans
receive valuable information—on their users’ behaviour, friends and
purchasing habits—in return for their products. Just as America drew up
sophisticated rules about intellectual property in the 19th century, so
it needs a new set of laws to govern the ownership and exchange of data,
with the aim of giving solid rights to individuals.
In essence this means giving people more control over their
information. If a user so desires, key data should be made available
in real time to other firms—as banks in Europe are now required to do
with customers’ account information. Regulators could oblige platform
firms to make anonymised bulk data available to competitors, in
return for a fee, a bit like the compulsory licensing of a patent.
Such data-sharing requirements could be calibrated to firms’
size: the bigger platforms are, the more they have to share. These
mechanisms would turn data from something titans hoard, to suppress
competition, into something users share, to foster innovation.
After the trigger comes the intended action. Here, companies leverage
two pulleys of human behavior: motivation and ability. To increase the
odds of a user taking the intended action, the behavior designer makes
the action as easy as possible, while simultaneously boosting the user’s
motivation. This phase of the Hook draws on the art and science of
usability design to ensure that the user acts the way the designer
None of this will be simple, but it would tame the titans without
wrecking the gains they have brought. Users would find it easier to
switch between services. Upstart competitors would have access to
some of the data that larger firms hold and thus be better equipped to
grow to maturity without being gobbled up. And shareholders could no
longer assume monopoly profits for decades to come.
Using the example of Barbra, with a click on the interesting picture in
her newsfeed, she’s taken to a website she’s never been to before called
Pinterest. Once she’s done the intended action (in this case, clicking
on the photo), she’s dazzled by what she sees next.
This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under
the headline “Taming the titans”
What separates Hooks from a plain vanilla feedback loop is their ability
to create wanting in the user. Feedback loops are all around us, but
predictable ones don’t create desire. The predictable response of your
fridge light turning on when you open the door doesn’t drive you to keep
opening it again and again. However, add some variability to the
mix — say, a different treat magically appears in your fridge every time
you open it — and voilà, intrigue is created. You’ll be opening that
door like a lab animal in a Skinner box.
Variable schedules of reward are one of the most powerful tools that
companies use to hook users. Research shows that levels of
dopamine — the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s pleasure
center — surge when the brain is expecting a reward. Introducing
variability multiplies the effect, creating a frenzied hunting state,
activating the parts associated with wanting and desire. Although
classic examples include slot machines and lotteries, variable rewards
are prevalent in habit-forming technologies as well.
When Barbra lands on Pinterest, not only does she see the image she
intended to find, but she’s also served a multitude of other glittering
objects. The images are associated with what she’s generally interested
in — namely, things to see during a trip to rural Pennsylvania — but
there are also some others that catch her eye. The exciting
juxtaposition of relevant and irrelevant, tantalizing and plain,
beautiful and common sets her brain’s dopamine system aflutter with the
promise of reward. Now she’s spending more time on the site, hunting for
the next wonderful thing to find. Before she knows it, she’s spent 45
minutes scrolling in search of her next hit.
The last phase of the Hook is where the user is asked to do bit of work.
This phase has two goals as far as the behavior engineer is concerned.
The first is to increase the odds that the user will make another pass
through the Hook when presented with the next trigger. Second, now that
the user’s brain is swimming in dopamine from the anticipation of reward
in the previous phase, it’s time to pay some bills. The investment
generally comes in the form of asking the user to give some combination
of time, data, effort, social capital, or money.
But unlike a sales funnel, which has a set endpoint, the investment
phase isn’t about consumers opening up their wallets and moving on with
their day. The investment implies an action that improves the service
for the next go-around. Inviting friends, stating preferences, building
virtual assets, and learning to use new features are all commitments
that improve the service for the user. These investments can be
leveraged to make the trigger more engaging, the action easier, and the
reward more exciting with every pass through the Hook.
As Barbra enjoys endlessly scrolling the Pinterest cornucopia, she
builds a desire to keep the things that delight her. By collecting
items, she’ll be giving the site data about her preferences. Soon she
will follow, pin, re-pin, and make other investments, which serve to
increase her ties to the site and prime her for future loops through the
A reader recently wrote to me, “If it can’t be used for evil, it’s not a
superpower.” He’s right. And under this definition, habit design is
indeed a super power. If used for good, habits can enhance people’s
lives with entertaining, and even healthful, routines. If used to
exploit, habits can turn into wasteful addictions.
But, like it or not, habit-forming technology is already here. The fact
that we have greater access to the web through our various devices also
gives companies greater access to us. As companies combine this greater
access with the ability to collect and process our data at higher speeds
than ever before, we’re faced with a future where everything becomes
more addictive. This trinity of access, data, and speed creates new
opportunities for habit-forming technologies to hook users. Companies
need to know how to harness the power of Hooks to improve people’s
lives, while consumers need to understand the mechanics of behavior
engineering to protect themselves from unwanted manipulation.
The degree to which a company can utilize habit-forming technologies
will increasingly decide which products and services succeed or fail.
Habit-forming technology creates associations with “internal triggers,”
which cue users without the need for marketing, messaging, or other
Creating associations with internal triggers comes from building the
four components of a Hook — a trigger, action, variable reward, and
Consumers must understand how habit-forming technology works to prevent
unwanted manipulation while still enjoying the benefits of these
Companies must understand the mechanics of habit formation to increase
engagement with their products and services and ultimately help users
create beneficial routines.
Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
and blogs about the psychology of products at NirAndFar.com. For more
insights on using psychology to change behavior, join his newsletter and
receive a free workbook.