There are some interesting parallels between 90’s “push” applications and today’s new media landscape of tablet magazines, native mobile applications, iOS Newsstand, Kindle stores, etc.
Push was a buzzword in the 90’s that represented technologies like Pointcast that generally delivered content to subscribers on desktops through specialized applications, as opposed to “pulling” content via web browsers. It was simultaneously lauded by many tech pundits but derided as a fad by others. Both parties turned out to be right in their own way.
We saw “push” technologies like Pointcast die, but RSS readers supplanted that use case for many and rose in prominence far beyond its my.netscape.com portal roots. The rise of the unidirectional friends/subscription model on Delicious and then Flickr eventually set the stage for Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook taking many aspects of “push” mainstream.
Beyond the subscription side of it, another aspect was this idea of more polished, cohesive interactive experiences delivered to that audience.
Push is interactivity on demand. It’s active content for passive viewers, and interactive content for an involved audience. Push is just as much about positioning and marketing as it is about about content: it’s about providing both content AND context. It’s not about producing media, but about delivering an experience.
This idea of packaging up an experience and delivering it is still fundamentally distinct from how we traditionally design web experiences, and is part of what’s exciting about things like iOS magazines and ebooks.
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