The default option

There is an article about Google, MSN and Yahoo's competing interests in AOL in the Economist. It ends with this interesting paragraph:

Ultimately, it all comes down to the three suitors' estimates of what Mr Varian calls "the power of the default". Default users are "the great unwashed", says Mr Varian. They are the ones who, for instance, use MSN because it comes pre-installed in Internet Explorer, the web browser that itself comes pre-installed on new computers. By contrast, teenagers and geeks mix and match their web mail, IM, online maps, search, blogging and so on from whichever service on the internet they happen to like best. Default users are less demanding, older but nonetheless rich enough to target with small hyperlinked text advertisements. For the dealmakers, it all comes down to figuring out how much these naifs, collectively, are worth. [The internet | The battle of the portals | Economist.com]
There is some evidence that electronic resources - databases say - near the top of lists are more heavily used. The 'default user' seems a relevant way of describing those library users that pick the database from near the top of the list. One way of characterizing the challenge of providing access to electronic resources is to try to get relevant resources to the 'default user'.

Economist link via Brian Lavoie.

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