Are URLs on the Path to Extinction?
A recent Wisdump commentary describes how marketing campaigns are asking people to search using keywords rather than type specific URLs.
I am sure you have at least one friend or loved one who has not grasped the concept of URLs and remains highly dependent on Google for finding their way around the web. If youâ€™ll take a closer look at their web browsers, youâ€™ll see why it really isnâ€™t their fault.
The very nature of URLs seems to be another major stumbling block. Ordinary people donâ€™t understand the use of a â€œwwwâ€ and a â€œ.comâ€, or that the â€œ@â€ symbol is used only in e-mail addresses. They donâ€™t know how to share websites through URLs eitherâ€”unless thereâ€™s a button with explicit instructions that tell them how.
Add to that the explosion of all the domain suffixes like .me, .travel, and even .xxx. Not to mention all the malicious parties that wish to take advantage of their ignoranceâ€”stealing and spoofing personal information through misspelled URLs, search keywords, and deceptive e-mails.
For me, the analogy would be this. Using URLs to go to webpages is like giving an exact, specific street address. Like Number 5 Main Avenue, Gotham City, or the like. Going to a website via a search engine would be like giving landmarks and asking people to look for signages. It’s like telling a friend to go to Main Avenue, look for the big brown building across City Hall, with the green revolving door. At the ground floor of that building would be your shop, which is right next to the florist’s.
Complicated, eh? My point is that I agree with Ia’s commentary that this would involve some search optimization on the part of the website owner. What if the florist closed shop? What if the building administrator painted the revolving door red? Then your friend would have a hard time finding you. Two years from now, the building might even be grey or blue-colored.
Accessing sites via search engines works this way, too. Today you might be number one for the keyword blogging pro on Google. Tomorrow, we may not be.
Another analogy would be the use of telephone numbers. You can call or SMS me on my exact, specific phone number, complete with country code, area code and number. You can also search for me by calling a directory service or 411, but that doesn’t always work the way I would want it to. The phone company might have several people named “Angelo Racoma.” Or I might not be listed at all. And of course, some people would rather be able to contact me directly.
So are URLs here to stay? Of course they are. It’s just perhaps that a lot of people are increasingly finding it convenient to just key in a phrase or keyword onto that ubiquitous search box at the top of the browser window. No more keying in WWW or .COM. Even that causes confusion, with the multitude of top-level domains.
In the future, URLs might just take a backseat, with more and more people doing searches than directly keying in web addresses. I can liken this to AOL and Compuserve. Remember the old times, when companies asked you to key in AOL keywords to access their portals, rather than URLs?