*A Farewell to Domain Names?; Speculations About the Demise of Your Browser’s Address Line

browser with an search box instead of an address line


Using a DNS (Domain Name Server) to transcribe what will definitely be a non-memorable InternetProtocol (IP-) address [] into a combination of letter and numbers, a UniformResourceLocator (URL),  [http://diepresse.com/home/recht/rechtallgemein/483778/index.do], arranged in a clear and coherent manner, is indeed a smart idea. Although a URL is already much easier to remember, users still problems with them as they require technological precision. If you just misspell one letter or place the dot in the wrong place, you will end up with a discouraging “failed to connect” screen.

To assist people when dealing with URLs, features such as Browser History or “Booksmarks” were developed. Still, searching your history requires recollection of when approximately you visited a specific site and using your Bookmarks requires that you actually remember to bookmark a page in the first place, as well as the creation of a comprehensive system of all your bookmarks that allows you to find THE specific bookmark you are searching for from among the entirety of all your Bookmark collection.

Quite early on in the web’s history users accepted that website directories where not an appropriate way to deal with the exploding number of information and websites online. At some point search engines kicked in and very soon it was clear that search engines had become THE tool for searching for information online. Then something happened that some people just see as natural progress in science and search engine technology and others call web 2.0 or similar. At the beginning of the web you had your “lighthouse in the data tsunami”, a website containing edited content. You navigated the web in a kind of hub-spoke manner, always returning to your “start page” before navigating to new websites. With all the user generated content on the web and the thus quickly emerging blur of information and also swiftly disappearing websites, this became a suboptimal way for users to navigate their way around the web. Today the fasted way to find and access information is to type a selection of words vaguely describing your interest into a search engine and then to browse through your results.


So let’s take a look at the benefits of a URL:

– If the link is complete and not abbreviated it shows you exactly where a link (e.g. beneath a search result) it will take you.

– If you look at e.g. advertisements on search result pages beneath the ad there is usually a link (in the case of an Adwords-Ad a Display URL) that indicates who is the sponsor of that ad and allows you to include this information in your decision on whether to follow the link or not.

– It shows you roughly which kind of content you will find (e.g. a .pdf) and will sometimes give you hints about the structure of the website you are intending to navigate to.

Let’s take a look at the downsides of a URL:

– Absolute, technical precision is required to reach your goal. A small letter or a small proportion of the URL misspelled causes a big difference which might confuse you. [coke.com is different from coke.cc]

– Apart from very short second level domains, most domains are very hard to remember

– If the content you are looking for is somewhere on a sub-page of a website and you don’t remember the whole, exact URL, you will have to start searching for the relevant sub-page on the homepage once again.

– If someone used a link-shortener you are in troubles anyway [any clue where http://www.tinyurl1234.com will lead you?]

In my view the downsides prevail. So what about the idea of replacing your browsers address bar/line with your favourite search engine’s search bar? This could bring a number of benefits for you:

– Even if you don’t get the desired URL perfectly right you will still be able to find the webpage you are searching for. [unless the search engine has decided to delist the website for some reason. Ask the Ascentive people how that feels 😉 … by the way… I really liked the Ascentive claim (by lawyers from Flaster/Greenberg I suppose), as  it contained some really smart passages. What a shame the lawsuit got dropped]

– Using a search engine is faster than scrolling through your browsing history or searching in your bookmark folder.

– When searching for e.g. a company which will repair your sink, the search engine result page (SERP) will not only display plumpers in your region, it might also contain links to other companies offering similar services for more favourable conditions.

– When searching for brand, the brands’ official website usually gets displayed on top of all other competing sites anyway.


So when drawing the line you might ask yourself: “Are domains doomed to be pushed out of the users’ eye?”

I personally do think so. I was told that esp. in Japan people have already started replacing their address line by a search window… and as long as the search engine you are using has not decided to delist the website you are looking for everything should be perfectly alright

Still, people [just] ain’t no good and thus I wonder if it is wise to take down all the street signs in the city called the internet and only rely on the 3 wise, old, blind  men people (Google, Yahoo&Microsoft, Facebook) sitting at the crossroad to tell us where to go. If one or more of these 3 would, for some reason, decide to direct people only to destinations paying them to receive customers, the internet would indeed be in trouble. Looking into how case-law jurisdictions struggle and civil-law jurisdictions  just completely fail to deal with legal issues on the internet, I strongly wonder if national (lacking civil agreements: anti- thrust) law will be able to deal with such an eventuality.

Picture 1

Ad asking people just to google the company's name

2 Responses to “*A Farewell to Domain Names?; Speculations About the Demise of Your Browser’s Address Line”

  1. 1 Sander Vermeulen 20/08/2009 at 09:37

    What you see as the future, is already happening in Google Chrome. You can say a lot of baad things about Google, but their new browser is quite different and based on some interesting ideas and concepts.

    However, I agree with you that when the search engine you rely on (in my case mainly Google) only directs you to sponsored links, that this is not good. The user should always be informed whether he is send somewhere because it is profitable for the company which sent him, or if it is realy the place the user was looking for.

    It is a dilemma, but for know I personally would like to keep the URLs.

  1. 1 Speaking about “A Farewell to Domain Names”… « Austrotrabant’s Blog Trackback on 24/10/2009 at 13:22

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