Have you ever noticed that, on almost all of the popular websites, the link colour is blue?

Have you ever built a web page from scratch? If not, you may not know that blue is the default colour these links appear in. You may also not know that blue links convert better, cause people to click more, than any other colour in A/B tests. Why is that?

This is an example of what some would call a self-reinforcing position. Because blue links convert better, people make them blue, which makes blue links get seen faster, and so on. It’s like the snake that eats its own tail.

Most people don’t understand how strong these positions are, especially if they’re advantageous to you. Strongest of all forces is that of compound interest, in which a start position strengthens itself and increases its lead as time goes on. But most people are still working their tails off rather than letting the lead they’ve built work for them.

One of the most powerful reasons to build something that lasts is because it can continue to reinforce your future projects for as long as the platform is in existence. You watch this happen over and over again– famous VCs get more traffic to their new projects than non-famous ones, bloggers getting book deals, whatever. But this isn’t a surprise.

What is a surprise is that people still refer to our culture as a meritocracy. We look at life as being about those who work hardest. But often, it’s those who know how to push the rock in the right direction… letting gravity do the work for them.

Which kind are you?





4 responses to “Ouroboros”

  1. Steve Avatar

    It also happens to be the default link colour a browser sets when none is specified—might have something to do with its popularity.

    Also, that word you keep using—ouroboros—I do not think it means what you think it means.

  2. Dave Haber Avatar

    So true….so true. If only I had understood compound interest when I was a kid and working my first jobs… I probably wouldn’t have spent all that snow shovelling and babysitting money on video games and candy 😉

    BTW: The Ouroboros or Uroborus[1] is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle (via Wikipedia)

    Seems appropriate in this context…

    Thanks for the post, Julien.


  3. Ian M Rountree Avatar

    I have to wonder which side you’re advocating for here; the rock on the hill, or Sisyphus? I’m not saying that living by meritocracy is futile, but if our ecosystem is predicated on gravity being the most-swiftly-effective means for results, perhaps there’s an unfair comparison being drawn?

    There’s something to be said for common language. Even if it is, as you say, an ouroborous (with the blue links) then perhaps recognizable indicators are necessary? It’s one thing to go against the flow (you won’t find a blue link on my site, for example) but quite another to ignore the flow altogether. Outside the box usually means adjacent to it, not five miles away after all.


  4. Dave Doolin Avatar

    So true. I’m finally getting it, after 30 years in the work force: it’s not a meritocracy in the sense of who gets most of the best work done fastest. I was raised to believe this, but experience puts it to the lie. The world just doesn’t work that way. I’m not sure it ever has.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *