Sunday, January 28, 2007

The end of URLs?

I saw this on Digg: Google is the new http:// I almost never link to anything at Digg for obvious reasons, but this really is something we need to be considering. All those URLs we print on our business cards and marketing materials? Mostly useless. Just more evidence the game is over and Google has won.

I’ve seen this behavior from my coworkers and friends, but it really becomes apparent when you see the top 1000 results of Google searches. Many of the top searches, like “bebo”, “ebay”, “yahoo”, “amazon”, “myspace”, “facebook”, aren’t really searches at all - these terms are mostly written by users who know exactly which page they want, but they’ve gotten used to using Google instead of the address bar. If you’re still not convinced, I give you the crown evidence: Google. One of the top search results in Google (number 6 at the time of this writing), is “Google“. Hundreds of millions of users are trying to get to Google through Google. Does this make any sense? No. But it shows that users don’t think about Google as a specific web page, they think of it as the service, an essential part of the internet experience. They’re using this service to get to the page they want: in this case, Google.
And you know what? They’re right. Google gives better results than the address bar in your web browser. Except for those hundred or so (probably less for casual internet users) addresses you know by heart, there’s a solid chance that won’t be the right one. Perhaps it’s, or .org. Or it’s, and you simply forgot about it. If you write the name of a fairly popular web site into Google’s search bar, you’re very likely to get the right result.

I do this, but I also have to admit that I hardly ever do it. Who goes to Web sites anymore? I go to Google Reader, Wikipedia, a few internal wikis, and…? What sites do you visit by entering a Google shortcut, or for that matter any URL in the address bar anymore?

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