Why hiding a browser’s navigation bar does not mean the rapture for URLs

domain name rapture

In much the same way as the Rapture was mis-predicted today, some mis-guided souls are mis-interpreting changes in Google’s Chrome browser and other browsers, like Firefox, as a sign of the coming end-times of the URL. Like Pastor Camping, those predicting such are, well, let me be nice, confused.

Here’s where their confusion started: ArsTechnica posted an item about other web browser developers following the trend Google has taken with Chrome to offer users the option of hiding location addresses. Instead of seeing http://long-addresses-with.lots/of_words_and_numbers, you could choose the option of seeing a page’s title name.

That led to the “URL’s End is Near” confusion. For example, after ArsTechnica’s item was posted, a blog called Conceivably Tech showed up on Techmeme with this URL is dead prediction. [Later: See clarification below.]

Moreover, they took an additional and big leap in logic to declare this:

“The URL bar has been a marketing tool which turned web addresses into brand names. When the URL bar is gone, what does it matter if your site has a .com, .tv or .biz address, as long as a search engine will find it and give you a high ranking? When the URL bar is removed, there will be another challenge for Internet marketing managers. Keep in mind, this is a matter of when, not if.”

First off, the “URL bar”? Does anyone you know actually call it the URL bar? Location bar (or box), maybe. Address bar (box), likely. But URL bar? Only someone predicting the death of the URL would call it that.

More importantly, if you have used Google’s Chrome browser for any length of time, you know that having just one “bar” that serves as both an input-box for search and a location identifier is not a URL-killer (another debate for another post, however).

But the most important point I’ll make regarding the “it’s just a matter of when, not if ” is this: Bloggers and browser developers, even Google itself, won’t get to make that decision — especially bloggers who confuse a Domain Name with a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). Hint: a URL starts with “http://” while a domain name is simply rexblog.com. The difference may seem trivial, but the difference is critical to the understanding of why you will still need .com or .etc, even after the “URL bar” is gone.

They may seem the same, but remember: Domain names have been around since 1985 while URLs have only been around since 1994. They weren’t born together, and they won’t die together.

Hidden URLs don’t take away the need to have input boxes that allow us to direct the browser to a desired location. Chrome’s autofill feature that uses the browser’s search history, along with Google’s algorithms to predict what we’re seeking has not changed users from selecting to go to where they assume to be the homepage of a website — its domain name.

Granted, ever since the first company who wanted a domain name couldn’t get it, there has been the desire for domain names to be replaced with, well, something, anything.

But that horse left the barn the first time someone printed their email address on their business card.

Is a browser feature change going to kill Dot-Com? I remember in about 2001, after the “dot-com” bust, every surviving internet company did all they could to make the dot.com at the end of their name go away. I don’t know which of them, maybe Expedia, came to their senses along the way and realized that, despite the death of dumb web ideas, people were still using the internet and they still needed an easy way to get to the front page of a company’s website.

The billions of dollars that have since been spent on promoting companies’ domain names will not go away because browser users have the option to hide the address bar.

Bottom line: Users will determine the fate of the domain name, not bloggers and not even Googledot com.

Bonus linkage: Dave Winer: “In a way the address bar is like the back door. It’s the way you can be sure you can get somewhere even if all the powers-that-be don’t want you to go there. It’s just a feeling. I don’t want to give it up, for me, or for anyone else.  I’d like to keep the address bars just as they are.”

Clarification: The way I wrote the paragraph conveyed that the ArsTechnica piece was written before the Conceivably Tech piece. I said the ArsTechnica piece caused the Conceivably Tech piece to show up on TechMeme. The Conceivably Tech piece was posted first. I still think their suggestions regarding the death of URLs are wrong. Also, it’s important to note that this post was written and posted on the Saturday that was predicted to be “The Rapture.” I attempted to tie the post into that event by playing around with comparisons and usage of words like “mis-guided souls.” Of course, I don’t think anyone who has an opinion I disagree with is actually, a “mis-guided soul.” I apologize to any Conceivably Tech person who may have been offended by my stab at humor.

  • I prefer to see the “URL bar”. Hiding it should be an option for “advanced” users, and not turned on by default.

  • Anonymous

    nnIn the end, this probably has more to do with marketing than anything else. People have been trying to turn the PC into the idiot box that it replaced. Just like TV stations give cliffhangers to keep you tuned in during the commercial break, the loss of a url bar will mean you just spend hours going around in a circle on the same website. inflating their ad revenue. Just like people do on Facebook.

  • Wow. You must have been really angry after reading our opinion and I apologize that we “misguided souls” prefer the phrase URL bar over address bar on our “blog called” ConceivablyTech. Just a quick correction – we did not post after Ars Technica. Ars Technica posted after us (which you woudl have seen if you read the entire Ars article) and we followed up on our own article. I am pretty sure you are a much more guided soul. u00a0

  • I’ve corrected the order above. My “mis-guided souls” reference was more a lame attempt to tie the post into the context of the whole Rapture thing that was going on when I wrote the post. And no, I am not a more guided soul. But on this particular issue, we definitely disagree. (But it’s not theological.)

  • You are free to disagree and I don’t mind as it keeps an interesting discussion alive. However, your reasoning based on “URL bar” and the assumption that this name implies that I am predicting the end of the URL is a similar “leap in logic”. If you read the article, you will find that I simply predict that the URL as a marketing instrument will be devalued. I may be wrong, but the trend is clearly showing the way, as Mozilla is also aggressively following this trend and will eliminate the URL at least for web apps in a first step. u00a0 u00a0 u00a0 u00a0 u00a0

  • Let me try this one more time and focus on where you and I actually disagree, not the stylistic issues bothering youu00a0nnMarketers promote domain names. Domain names are the marketing instruments.u00a0nnYou keep saying URLs. Domain names are a part of every URL, but not all URLs are domain names. Domain names are also a part of email addresses. Domain names have value to marketers far beyond a sub-group of web browsers.nnNo matter what Firefox and Google do to hide URLs, Fedex is not going to drop Fedex.com off the side of their trucks.Domain names as a marketing instrument are not going to be devalued until marketers decide they are not the way they want to tell the world how to reach them via the internet, not just the web browser.nnDomain names are what appear on Superbowl ads and the side of jetliners. They are not going away due to anything on the Chrome or Firefox browser.

  • good job