Algorithms equal growth

Media empires owe their success to novel technologies

Morgan McCormack, News Editor

How did Mark Zuckerberg, build grossly popular websites and apps that just make us keep tapping and scrolling?

The simple answer is through algorithms. People like Zuckerberg and Systrom used a system of instructions to create the fundamentals of their sites. However, that is only how they built the structure of the site, not popularity.  The beginnings of Google is a good example both of the use of algorithms in building a platform as well as the need to evolve that algorithm to increase functionality.

“Google’s first searching algorithm would look through websites and see how many links to other websites they had,” computer science teacher Jonathan Ringenberg said. “Nowadays, searching algorithms use something called machine learning, where it learns your preferences and then based on that will try to make decisions for you and try to give you content you like” 

Popularity and success is built by three main elements according to Harvard Business Review. Those three elements being connection or the ease at which people can use and interact with the platform, gravity, people’s attraction to the site that can be increased through advertisements and options of personalization and flow, the promotion of co-creation. 

Other variables that can contribute to the success of a social media site or platform include the site’s simplicity, creating interaction between users, the ease at which one can build a presence within the app and allowing people to express themselves.

“After all the testing, all the iterating, all of this stuff, you know the single biggest thing we realized? Get any individual to seven friends in ten days, that was it.” former Vice President of Growth at Facebook, Chamath Palihapitiya said in his lecture “How we put Facebook on the path to 1 billion users.”

Companies such as Facebook and Instagram build a strong platform through algorithms, and they make their money the same way, using their algorithms to curate your page or lure you into a purchase or way of thinking.

You sit on your couch for hours tapping and scrolling, and the algorithm recognizes the things that you like and search, and it collects that data and uses that for advertisements.

For example, say you’re shopping for a new scarf for your mom for Christmas, and all of a sudden, ads for scarves pop up on your Facebook feed. 

Or you begin liking posts related to more left-leaning ideals, then more images and videos with left-wing views will begin to appear in your feed.

Companies use their algorithms to collect data so they know what will sell better, whether it be selling a scarf or a whole ideology. 

Social media, with all of its good and all of its bad, is made to draw you in. Made to keep you clicking and scrolling, and all the while it’s getting to know who you are, for better or for worse.