From the editor: The AI era has ushered in a new way of content interaction: prompting. This article explores two views on what will happen to another interaction model: browsing.

Anthony DeRosa
Head of Content and Product, ON_Discourse

No, it won't.

Generative AI is transforming content consumption, starting with just a prompt. This shift begs a critical question: Are we overestimating the desire to engage with content through AI prompts, and underestimating the timeless value of traditional browsing?

The enduring appeal of browsing

Browsing—the act of casually exploring content without a specific goal—has been an intrinsic part of human behavior long before the digital era. It caters to our innate curiosity and desire for serendipitous discovery. In contrast to AI-prompted interactions, where responses are generated based on specific user inputs, browsing allows users to stumble upon unexpected content, leading to new ideas and inspirations.

I spoke to Tyler Chance, a VP of Product at Hearst, who questions whether a prompt-first interface can lead to a better user experience.

“I don’t know what replaces the browse. If the entire Netflix homepage were to go away and just be an input prompt… because now, I’ve watched everything that I know I want. How do I get to the things that I don’t know I want?”

It is about the dopamine, the slow dopamine drip of a browse."

people browse in a mall set within a smart phone

The prompt paradigm

AI technologies have introduced a new way of interacting with content. AI systems like chatbots and recommendation engines provide users with content based on direct prompts or past behavior. This approach, while efficient, is rooted in the assumption that users always have a clear intent or preference when engaging with content, which is not always the case.

We must consider the balance between intent-based consumption and discovery through browsing. While AI excels in delivering content tailored to specific queries, it may not always capture the joy of spontaneous discovery that browsing offers. 

This article is part of The Intelligently Artificial Issue, which combines two big stories in consumer tech: AI and CES.

Read more from the issue:


Augmented Intelligence: from UX to HX

Will prompting replace browsing?

The car is the gateway drug to a voice-first acceleration

The prompt interface needs a redesign


AI will brainstorm your next reorg

Expect fewer managers and direct-reports

AI is too immature for your business

AI is not a new revolution


Should we ignore the hardware?

Can AI help consumers love your brand?

Your brand doesn't have enough data for AI

Can LLMs be optimized like search results?

Good brands will integrate more friction into their CX

User preferences: new or familiar?

Do people currently spend more time seeking specific information or exploring content without a predetermined goal? This question extends to user interface preferences. Do people genuinely seek a new way of interacting with content, or is there comfort and satisfaction in traditional methods? While some may argue that current content consumption methods are outdated and inefficient, others find value in the familiar experience of browsing, suggesting resistance to completely adopting prompt-based interfaces.

Chance believes that it would be hard to break away from how attractive, addictive, and spontaneous the browsing experience is, as opposed to one where you’re expected to know the right way to prompt or always have a specific intent.

“Just think about the notion of UX over the last like, 10 years," Chance said. “It is about the dopamine, the slow dopamine drip of a browse. That is what the social feed is. That is what you know. That’s where we start. We start and then we hone and that is going to be a really hard nut to crack because it is the place to go when you have zero intent and you want to craft an intent.” 

The argument for AI-driven content discovery is flawed. The assumption that users always have a clear intent is overstated, while browsing without a specific goal can lead to discovering content that one might not have known existed. Additionally, AI systems, while advanced, don’t understand the nuances of human curiosity and the desire for serendipity.

Emil Protalinski
Managing Editor, ON_Discourse

Yes, it will (sorta).

Something was bothering me, and I couldn’t figure out what the query should be. All I could remember was that “an investor at some point in time spotted a trend wherein the first few days of January set the tone for the rest of the year.” This was not enough for a Google search, or at least not enough to avoid a lot of furious and frustrated clicking.
I turned to Perplexity AI. The chatbot’s quick responses, inaccurate or not, led me to remember the phrase “investor’s almanac,” which pointed me to the Stock Trader’s Almanac. Perplexity then informed me about “the first five trading days of January” and the “January Barometer.” I then confidently turned to Google, where I satisfied my knowledge gap by browsing and reading a variety of high-quality articles.

This anecdote cemented two realizations for me:
1. Prompting is not a temporary phenomenon.
2. Browsing is not going away.

In a world of just prompting, I would have been stuck wondering what responses were accurate and which were hallucinated. In a world of just searching, I would have spent too long trying to figure out the right query, if I had had the energy to search at all.

Sometimes, humans want to quickly prompt. Other times, we just want to browse.