Elastic, not sticky JUL 03 2002
Google now has this bit of text on the bottom of each of their results pages now:
"Try your query on: AltaVista Excite Lycos Yahoo!"
Click on Excite (for example) and it takes you directly to an Excite search results page for whatever term you were searching for. What's going on here? Google linking directly to competitors' Web sites? Have they gone insane?
What Google is doing here is instructive for most companies offering online content or services. Google knows their search results are good and displayed in a useful way. You want to wander off to Excite? That's ok because they know you'll be back soon. Google doesn't care about stickiness (which is a nearly unattainable goal unless you're AOL or Yahoo!)...they know that you're not going to spend all your online time at their site.
They care much more about making their site elastic: vistors aren't stuck in the site, but when they leave, Google knows there's a good chance they're coming back. Loyalty without lock-in. Elastic sites work well because they embrace the "Webness" of the Web...they allow people to interact and communicate with each other as they prefer to do in the real world. Human relationships are elastic in nature. Like a clingy friend, nothing is worse than a needy Web site sucking all of your time away and not letting you spend any time on other sites.
Weblogs are a good example of the effectiveness of elasticity; they continually direct people away from themselves yet people have very strong connections with the weblogs that they read and often come back for more. I can't possibly hold your attention here for more than a few minutes a day, but I'm fairly confident that if I am consistant in what I offer here in terms of quality and theme, you'll be back within the next week.
Many companies can't offer products or services with the quality or necessity of Google or the crack-like nature of weblogs, but they can stop worrying so much about fencing customers in like cattle and start dealing with them in human terms.