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In the world of apps, one design technique has kept users more engaged than ever: infinite scroll. But what exactly is infinite scroll and what is its impact on our daily interaction with social networks? This article unravels the concept, its origin, its use on social platforms, the different types of scroll and its fundamental purpose, all in the context of the recent concern expressed by the European Parliament about the need for stricter regulations to protect users from potentially addictive web designs.

What is infinite scroll?

Infinite scroll is an interaction design technique that allows users to scroll through a continuous stream of content without the need to click to move to the next page. This creates a seamless and seemingly endless user experience, where new content loads automatically as the user scrolls down.

Who invented infinite scroll?

Although the concept of continuous loading has been around since the early days of computing, infinite scroll as we know it today was popularized by Aza Raskin, an interface designer, in 2006. Raskin introduced this concept while working at Humanized, a software startup. Since then, it has been adopted by countless digital platforms, from social networks to news and e-commerce sites.

What is scrolling in social networks?

Scrolling on social networks refers to the action of scrolling vertically through a stream of content on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This activity has become a habitual behavior for many, often associated with passive consumption of information and entertainment.

How many types of scroll are there?

In addition to traditional and infinite scroll, there are several scrolling techniques such as parallax scrolling (where the background moves at a different pace than the content to create a sense of depth) and pagination scrolling (where the content is divided into pages, but can be scrolled between them). Each has its own uses and benefits, depending on the purpose of the web page and the experience you want to offer the user.

What is scroll and what is it for?

Scrolling is the action of moving up or down a page or application. Originally, it serves to allow users to see all the content that does not fit on a single screen. However, in modern design, it is also used to create interactive narratives, increase user engagement and present information in a more attractive and dynamic way.

The infinite scroll and digital ethics debate

Recently, the European Parliament has highlighted the urgency of new EU rules to make digital platforms less addictive. The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee has adopted a report warning about the addictive nature of certain digital services that exploit people’s vulnerabilities to capture their attention and monetize their data. In a world where infinite scrolling is ubiquitous, lawmakers are calling for an ethical default design that excludes deceptive and addictive practices.

The proposal includes harmful techniques such as infinite scroll and default autoplay, which could be examined and banned by the Commission. In addition, it suggests a “digital right not to be disturbed” and advocates the creation of a list of good design practices.

Towards an ethical and conscientious future

In response to concerns such as loss of concentration, stress and the impact on mental health, especially among young people, the EU is considering stronger measures. As MEP Kim Van Sparrentak mentions, it is essential that action is taken now to prevent negative impacts on future generations, similar to how other products are regulated to protect public health.

The European Commission is currently assessing whether it needs to update consumer protection legislation to ensure a high level of protection in the digital environment, with results expected in 2024. This Parliament’s own-initiative report, once adopted in plenary, will influence the ongoing verification of the adequacy of current regulations.

Infinite scroll, therefore, is not just a matter of web design, but a matter of digital well-being. While we enjoy the ease of browsing infinite streams of content, we must also be aware of the impact these digital experiences can have on our long-term health and well-being. The need for ethical design and practices that encourage healthy online habits is more relevant than ever in our hyper-connected society.