Web Infrastructures and Online Attention Ecology
The Web has given rise to novel infrastructures for content curation and user content generation. Existing literature connecting website features and user behavior concentrates on a small number of popular websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Search, and Wikipedia. This study raises the analytical scheme from the particularities of singular websites to “formats” shared across sites. Through measures we employ to gauge distinct aspects of attention, we analyze traffic to the world’s most popular sites at three time points and determine their website formats with the assistance of human coders. We found that, compared with websites invested in producing original content, the curatorial websites tend to serve as attention hubs, and websites driven by user-generated content serve as attention bridges. Methodologically, this study advances the project of capturing the interconnections within the online attention ecology. Empirically, our findings show how this ecology evolved in relation to Web infrastructures.