Learned Behavior: how the best products eventually change their users

When I evaluate product, either at the early or late stage of a startup, I’m always looking to see if the product has the potential to permanently modify user behavior outside of the product itself

A few examples of this:

  • Instagram : double-tap
    Apple designer Bill Atkinson devised the double-click, and soon it became the de-facto way to open files across all desktop GUI’s (Windows, Linux). The clever folks at Instagram appropriated it for their Mobile application to “like” a post. I’ve found myself mindlessly double-tapping photos in other applications. (NB: In light of this, I’m not sure I agree with secret’s choice to make the “like post” gesture as a left-to-right swipe.)
  • Netflix : binge consumption
    The way today’s content travels is much more binary – you’ll either never see the light of day or go viral (think: YouTube videos, 2048, any Upworthy article). To put it differently, today’s content distribution models enable and encourage binge consumption. Netflix is one of the first large tech companies to realize and capitalize on it by releasing traditional content in a way that enables binge consumption. Will that eventually put pressure on other content distributors?
  • Uber : pay through app
    It has become so easy to take an Uber that I’ve found myself walking out of regular cabs without paying. Embarrassment aside, it comes to show that Uber is creating a new behavior of seamless payment, something that Square and other startups have been attempting to do. 

The best products eventually change user behavior because they simplify those existing user behaviors; making it so natural that users have incorporated the habits into their regular lives. 

Facebook + Instagram: blog posts galore!

I was going to write a post on how the $1 billion price tag on Instagram actually makes sense given the context of the acquisition, until I realized that the entire blogsphere and its mom has already written something to that extent. As such, I’ve gathered a couple of posts that I found most interesting during the Facetagram aftermath:

  • Andy Baio of Wired magazine did a precedent transactions analysis, breaking the acquisition down to unit economics such as cost per user and price per employee. (Thanks to Albert Wenger of USV for the find, and for providing more nuanced analysis of what those numbers mean.)
  • Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures brings his perspective on the relative price tag, mobile strategy, and how Facebook may be running a little scared. 
  • Christopher Zinzli at the WSJ gave us a slew of numbers to consider. I’ll add another one to the mix: $35 million (the price for Yahoo’s acquisition of Flickr in 2005).
  • Patrick Neeman of Jobvite brings up some negative side-effects of the acquisition for today’s fundraising environment. I do agree that this will only serve to fuel the “we’re not concerned about revenue right now” mindset of fresh entrepreneurs. Instagram’s success story is the exception, not a new rule.

And to wrap this all up, Lauren Leto of Texts From Last Night and Bnter posted a bombastic road map of what-could-have-been for Instagram if they hadn’t sold.