I did a very quick, informal survey on how people use tabs when looking at Web search results. Some people immediately open all the search results that look interesting in new tabs, then explore them one by one (“open-parallel). Others open one result in a new tab, explore it, go back to the search page, then open the second result in another tab, etc. (“open-sequentially”). Note that the “open-sequential” people can have lots of tabs open at a time, they just open them one by one.
To clarify, open-parallel means control-clicking on the URL for result #1, then on result #2, then on #3, then on #4, and only THEN and switching to the tab for #1, examining it, switching to the tab for #2, etc. Open-sequential means control-clicking on the URL for result #1, switching to the tab for #1, examining #1, switching to the search results page, control-clicking on #2, switching to the tab for #2, examining #2, switching to the search results page, etc.
I was surprised to find that the people who had been in the US in the early 2000’s were far more likely to use the open-parallel strategy. There was an even stronger correlation with geekdom: all of the geeks used the open-parallel, and only two of the non-geeks did.
|Citizenship||Where in early 00’s?||Geek?||Citizenship||Where in early 00’s?||Geek?|
|US||Working/studying in US||Y||Canada||Working/studying in Canada||N|
|US||Working in US||Y||US||Studying in US||N|
|US/Canada||Studying in US||Y||Canada||Studying in Canada||N|
|Canada||Studying/working in US||Y||Canada||Studying in US||N|
|Australia||Working in Australia(?)||Y||Netherlands||Working in Europe(?)||N|
|US/Canada||Working in US||Y||Canada||University in Canada||N|
|Canada||Working in Canada||sort-of||Canada||University in Canada||N|
|US||University in US||N|
|India||University in US||N|
Notes on the survey:
- The subject pool is not representative of the general propulation: everyone who answered lives or lived at my former dorm at UBC, has a bachelor’s degree, and all but one have an advanced degree or are working on one.
- I classified people as geeks if they had had Linux on at least one of their computers and/or had worked in the IT industry. The person with the “sort-of” in the geek column doesn’t qualify on any of those counts, but was a minor Internet celebrity in the mid 90s.
What does this mean?
What does this mean? I’m not sure, but I have a few ideas:
- I suspect that the geeks are more likely to have used a browser with modern tabbing behaviour much earlier, so have had more years to adapt their strategies. (Internet Explorer got modern tabbing behaviour in 2006; Mozilla/Firefox got it in 2001.)
- One of the benefits of the open-parallel strategy is that pages can load in the background. Maybe in 2001, Web access was slower enough that this was important and relevant. Maybe it’s not that the geeks have been using tabs longer, but that they started using tabs when the Internet was slow.
- It might be that the geeks do more Web surfing than the non-geeks, so have spent more time refining their Internet behaviour.