I can’t help but think how archaic the internet still is. Case in point, URLs. Is this the bane of internetters or what?
Let’s start with the prefix:
Seriously, do we really need to have that crap anymore? How many folks are trying to FTP, Telnet or friggin Gopher these days from their browser?
I can already hear the conversation that I’ll have with my kids someday. “Hey, Dad. What was the letters and slash stuff?” “H-T-T-P-colon-slash-slash.” “See, told you. Crazy stuff back in the day.”
Next up is the infamous triple letter combination:
Double-u, double-u, double-u
dub, dub, dub
However you say WWW, it’s about time we get rid of it. I think it’s safe to say we all realize that it’s the World Wide Web now.
Now, some corporations are guilty of not only keeping this around but going a bit on the extreme side of it. What I mean by that is adding WWW in front of subdomains. I won’t actually call out the URLs, but it would be something like this:
So after dropping those two items, that leaves us with just the domain and the suffix. I suppose we can’t really get rid of those just yet. Realnames tried, but failed pretty miserably.
Yes, I realize that browsers support just a domain name and the top level domain suffix. They will then add the rest that I’m proposing we get rid of. However, I’m saying we need to consciously do away with them too.
Some of you are likely asking, “What are we to use then? We need addresses. That would be like addressing a letter to ‘The house of Tom’ and hoping it would arrive in your mailbox. It just won’t work.” To which, I say, “Sure, it will.”
In a way, we’re both right. Of course, I’m not saying we do away with unique identifiers: domain names, IP addresses, cell phone numbers, etc. Somehow, someway, some computer has to manually track each and every entry on the internet. However, there’s no reason why we as humans have to conform and remember the crazy unique identifier. When having a conversation, I may want to tell someone about my tutorial on the Flex Component Kit for Flash. I definitely wouldn’t say, “Yeah, just go to https://lordbron.wordpress.com/2007/05/01/flex-component-kit-step-by-step/ and you can see my tutorial.” No, rather, I’d say, “I have a tutorial post on my lordbron blog.”
A lot of folks dial their cells by either voicing the callee’s name or looking up a name in the phone book. Numbers are a one time thing that we enter, and to be honest, I’m too lazy to have both people manually enter the numbers. When exchanging number with new contacts, I ask for their number, dial it and say, “That’s my number.” This way, they just hit save and never even have to type my unique identifier. Tell someone in the early days of the phone that you’d be able to say, “Call mom” into the phone and it would automatically connect you with your mom and they would’ve said, “You’re crazy.”
There’s a few ways that I think we can get around the URL (or unique indentifier) issue:
- Merge the URL bar with the search box
- Utilize RIA technologies like AIR and Prism to do away with the need for a browser
- Widgets (to an extent)
Merge the URL bar with the search box
Now, I know, this may sound crazy but hear me out. There are two areas where you can go in a browser to find a spot on the web: the url bar and the search box. Most times, you’ll know the address and you enter it in the url bar. As you start to type, it autocompletes and you choose the site/location that you’re trying to get to. No reason why we couldn’t add that functionality to the search box. It could look like the current search box drop down only with a divider. Anything above the dividing line takes you straight to a site you’ve already been to, anything below the line takes you to the search results of your preferred search engine.
Firefox and Internet Explorer already will take whatever you type in the url bar and submit it to a search engine for you if it doesn’t resolve to a URL. Therefore, it just seems silly to me that we have two input boxes when in reality we only need one. I’m for simplification and this would greatly reduce me having to switch from the url bar and the search box via keyboard shortcuts.
Utilize RIA technologies like AIR and Prism to do away with the need for a browser
I know there are those out there that love the browser and praise it as the end all be all of the internet. Seriously though, let’s rethink this for a second. Yes, when I had my cutting edge GeoCities site in 1997, the Back and Forward buttons were the bomb. In 2008 though, when making a Flex App or when using GMail, Forward and Back are not only a bit rough, but oftentimes useless.
“What about Bookmarks?” I can hear the masses ask. To which I say, “What about ’em? Do you miss bookmarks in Word? Outlook? Calculator? Flash Authoring? Photoshop?” No, and therefore, you shouldn’t “miss” them in web apps either. An application is a workflow, not a linear object like a book. Therefore, book marks are pretty useless.
Therefore, I think technologies like Adobe AIR and Mozilla Prism are way more useful than the browser. You escape the Forward/Back metaphor AND you totally control the experience. If you don’t know what I mean by controlling the experience, just do this comparison.
Seriously, why go back to the eBay website after you’ve tried eBay Desktop? eBay is all about a fun experience. The AIR app delivers that, the website…not so much.
Widgets (to an extent)
Some websites, just don’t need to be websites. Case in point: weather.com While I appreciate being able to go there to lookup weather, it’s a heck of a lot easier for me to flip my weather widget over on my Mac and enter a new location for it. I know this probably doesn’t make weather.com all that happy, since I’m bypassing their ads. It’s the truth though, so it is what it is.
As you can see, we’re on our way to a better internet. We just gotta keep on trucking and improving until we get to the point where my kids can ask, “Dad, what’s a url?”