The web is pull not push

The web is pull not push and this is a problem for publishers, readers and creativity.

The web is pull not push and this is a problem for publishers, readers and creativity.



One of the big problems with the web, and that’s web 1.0 or 2.0 or even 3.0, is that it's pull and not so much push. The difference between "pull" and "push" is important for the way we work and the way that we like to work.

For example, when I want to let you know something important I email or send an SMS message and this is “push”. The alternative is that you keep on checking on the off chance that there is something important I want to tell you – this is “pull”.

The difference is so important that it has been said that the huge success of the Blackberry mobile communicator is down to its ability to deliver email as and when it arrives, i.e. push-email. Back in the early days of email what was really depressing was using dialup to connect to a post box only to discover that there wasn’t anything new --- and this was pull.

In nearly all cases we prefer push delivery of information but the web is mostly pull.

How do you use the web – you generally turn to it when you have a question or a need. You type something into a search engine and off you go to the relevant pages – you find the information you need; it doesn’t set out to find you and this is an example of pull delivery.

You can work quite hard to find examples of push delivery on the web. To identify a candidate you simply have to answer the question – did you find the information or did the information find you. If you found the information its pull and if the information found you its push publishing.

So with this sorted out, what is the problem with pull publishing? Well it isn’t really active publishing. If you place an article on the web – a blog, a book review or the solution to the troubles of our time – then you have to sit back and wait for readers to find it. There is virtually no way of push publishing it to end users unless they can be some how enticed to sign up to a mailing list or something similar and how do you do this.

If you are naive enough to believe that advertising or social bookmarking sites give you a way of push publishing think again – both of these mechanisms have big defects. Social bookmarking sites employ active means to make sure that push publishing only occurs by virtue of random chance, i.e. a random user finds a random article and likes it and so offers it to other users of the site. Is this push publishing? Probably not because you still have to find the information before it is offered for further consumption.

This sounds like a problem only for the publisher but users also suffer because they don’t get a diet of information to keep them entertained. Users tend to get what they already have, i.e. answers to queries that reflect their current interests and visits to subject-oriented websites that they happen to have found.

Then of course there is the big problem that many users only browse the web at all when they are in search of a specific answer or requirement. The web as entertainment doesn’t seem to have achieved anything more than a few seconds of uTube video or a cartoon. Where are the great web works of literature? Where are the novels, the magazines, the poems, the exhibitions of art?

You could put the lack down to the short attention span of the average web user but it could also be that these things can’t exist in a pull environment. Can you imagine the impressionists getting together to put a few paintings up on a website just in case someone happened to find them via a search for “pretty pictures” or Hemingway blogging “for whom the bell tolls” on the off chance that it might get some hits via a Google query on bells or tolling or ….


Pull publishing only goes so far.


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 February 2010 )