The difference in the definition of the terms ‘domain name’ and URL

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First off, I should not have let my earlier post responding to predictions of the death of URLs be influenced by the fact I was writing it during Saturday afternoon’s hoopla over the rapture (the rapture didn’t happen, if you missed the news). In hindsight, I came off sounding like I was suggesting anyone who disagreed with me was the antichrist. Frankly, while I think their opinion is wrong, the subject of our disagreement was nothing apocalyptic — however, they are going to be left behind.

My stab at rapture humor set off a micro-tempest in a tiny-teapot that made me realize there are a lot of very smart and knowledgeable people who don’t understand the nuanced difference between a URL and a domain name. Now, if you’re 99.9% of the people on this or any other planet, it will never matter if you don’t know the difference — go right on calling it “my company’s URL” or whatever. That’s fine and wonderful.

However, if “guru” or “rock star” are titles you’ve ever used to describe your internet marketing skills, you should add this bit of trivial logic to your fount (or if you prefer, font) of wisdom: Domain names were first available for registration on March 15, 1985. URLs (Uniform Resource Locator) were a creation of Tim Berners-Lee in 1990, when he led in the creation of the web. Okay, let that sink in. URLs were not created until 1990, but domain names were around in 1985. I could end this post here, but some people still will say that URLs and domain names are the same, so let me try this additional logic tidbit: While a URL (if on the internet) contains a domain name, a domain name can be used in ways that have nothing to do with a URL. Obvious example: an e-mail address: name@DomainName.com. Therefore, the two can’t be the same.

So why does this esoterica matter to the .1% of the world’s population who claim to be web marketing gurus?

It means that if you believe one day the web browser will be replaced by a Google chip embedded in your brain, you shouldn’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that such chips will mean marketers can re-deploy that part of their budgets devoted to painting their domain name on the side of jet planes. A domain name is a brand name’s presence on the web. The billions of dollars already spent on searing such addresses into the minds of customers is not going to evaporate anytime soon.

Likewise, if we woke up one day to discover everyone in the world had their own Cuecat or that everyone was required to tattoo a QR code on their forehead, it would still not mean the end of marketers wanting customers to remember their URL, I mean, domain name.

So what is a URL? It’s something that appears after “http://”.

  • Holy cow – you invoked the Cue Cat – surely a sign of the Apocalypse!

  • I try my best to remember to drop a memorial link to Wikipedia CueCat entry to remind myself of web-era inventions inspired by Rube Goldberg.