In 2006, Aza Raskin introduced the infinite scroll. The coding would allow users to endlessly scroll down a website with constant content being refreshed onto the page – thus creating an “endless scroll.” In 2008, Paul Irish took Aza Raskin’s contribution and releases the infinite scroll jQuery and WordPress plug-in.
As a breakthrough contribution, the infinite scroll has become a characteristic of many social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and more.
Back in my Tumblr days, I distinctly remember adjusting my HTML coding to my collection of blogs to include the infinite scroll. I always thought it looked more aesthetically pleasing versus having users click from one page to the next on my image re-post blog (while Tumblr is a blogging website, I attended middle school with kids who used Tumblr as an Instagram before Instagram became as widely popular as it is now.)
Looking back, I essentially grew up into an infinite scroll world. As our society has become more open to discussing the major cons of the internet and social media, the infinite scroll has received endless backlash from a psychological standpoint. Aza Raskin himself has also apologized for the creation, stating in a tweet from 2019 that “One of my lessons from infinite scroll: that optimizing something for ease-of-use does not mean best for the user or humanity.”
One of my lessons from infinite scroll: that optimizing something for ease-of-use does not mean best for the user or humanity. https://t.co/LgUWfJClQ7
— Aza Raskin (@aza) June 11, 2019
Ultimately, there’s no denying that the infinite scroll has single-handedly taught the end-user to lose a sense of time (endless scroll = more endless hours experiencing what feels like a black hole) but also, created a user experience that doesn’t require patience. The infinite scroll has created an opportunity for endless content without a break.
Social media’s purpose is to interconnect families and friends digitally. It makes sense that from a user standpoint we want to endlessly receive refreshed updates without the need to go from one page to the next. It saves time, it gives us content on-demand, and in some way: it feels like a digital conversation when the scroll is endless (I mean…are conversations meant to be timed?)
The advantage of not having to acquire and click “next page” keeps audiences engaged with the content and less focused on the mechanics of navigating to the next page, ultimately leading to a lower interaction cost.
The question becomes though, do users want an endless stream of data all around? Does the infinite scroll work on other digital experiences?
Analytics show that when users search for information on Google, only 6% advance to the second page. 94% of users are satisfied with receiving only 10 results, which suggests that users find Google’s ranking of results to be relevant from the beginning . With items distributed across web pages, including search results, it makes more sense for the user to refresh back to a page or two to reference what was missed or targeted.
A perfect example of where the infinite-scroll didn’t work seamlessly for its user experience is its introduction to the marketplace Etsy. While the idea of introducing content infinitely sounded like a stellar idea – where is the point of reference for users while they’re endlessly scrolling for a handmade earring set? A/B testing showed various negative effects of the feature, including fewer clicks on results and fewer items favorited from the infinite results page. Additionally, while users didn’t buy fewer items overall, they just stopped using Etsy’s search bar to find these items. 
Dan McKinley, the Principal Engineer over at Etsy, shared that “We thought that it was obvious that more items, faster was a better experience. There is a lot of web lore out there to that effect, based mostly on some findings Google’s made in their own search.” 
Through this instance, it becomes clear that the infinite scroll is meant for a particular user experience/interaction. For Etsy and Google Search, the user is searching for something in particular within a list of results. A point of reference is more suited in this instance, versus an infinite scroll atmosphere where there is no point of reference. For social media platforms like Twitter, users are scanning and consuming a flow of information – where a point of reference isn’t needed as it’s not considered research. The user is essentially reading the list of tweets until they’re ready to shut their phone off.
Overall, the infinite scroll introduced our desire to consume content on a faster, endless basis. One can say it’s an effective, brilliant, and perfect way to entice the user to stay for a prolonged time. But, the infinite scroll is comparable to a slot machine – that could lead to social media addiction and other harmful psychological effects in how we process information at once. Kids have 10 times the amount of screen time they did in 2011, and spend an average of 6 hours and 40 minutes using technology, due in part to social media’s affiliation with the infinite scroll . So while this coding breakthrough feels like an endless conversation, does it also make us wonder if the conversation is worth the 6 hours and 40 minutes we spent invested into it? Certainly.
 Johnson, Joseph. “U.S. Organic Search Visits by Engine 2020.” Statista, 22 Feb. 2021, www.statista.com/statistics/625554/mobile-share-of-us-organic-search-engine-visits/.
 Nguyen, Dan. “Why Did Infinite Scroll Fail at Etsy?” Danwin.com, 6 Jan. 2013, danwin.com/2013/01/infinite-scroll-fail-etsy/.
 McKinley, Dan. “Design for Continuous Experimentation: Talk and Slides.” Dan McKinley: Math, Programming, and Minority Reports, 22 Dec. 2012, mcfunley.com/design-for-continuous-experimentation.
 “Past Research Reports: Common Sense Media.” Common Sense Media, 1 Jan. 2015, www.commonsensemedia.org/research/the-common-sense-census-media-use-by-tweens-and-teens.
Koss, Hal. “Infinite Scroll: What Is It Good for?” Built In, builtin.com/ux-design/infinite-scroll.
Lorusso, Silvio. “The User Condition 02: A Tentative Chronology of the Industrialization of Web Interfaces (Work in Progress).” Entreprecariat, 11 Mar. 2020, networkcultures.org/entreprecariat/chronology-industrialization-web-interfaces/.