Just yesterday I was talking with a few people about the Web and how things are changing, and the subject of URLs came up. And I shared my opinion on the matter – URLs don’t matter. Before you start arguing, I want to make it clear that I do understand that there are exceptions to every rule and no assumption stays true forever. But on the other hand, that’s what I believe.
I think every Web surfer answers this question to himself at certain point in time. Are all these URLs that I visited, searched for, and bookmarked over the years matter? And I suspect that quite a few of those people will answer as I do – “no”. I had a sneaky suspicion for some time, but it was delicious social bookmarks web service that made me confident about this.
The thing with delicious is that initially it was available at http://del.icio.us . And as you might guess, there quite a few problems with this URL. Firstly, the word “delicious” is not in the active vocabulary of most non-native English speakers. Secondly, even those who know the word, have troubles spelling it correctly. Thirdly, those who know how to spell it, never seem to guess where to put the dots. And fourthly, the logical line between the meaning of the word “delicious” and a social bookmarking web site is vague at best.
However, that didn’t stop del.icio.us from becoming the most popular social bookmarking web site on the Web. And that was when I became confident in that the URLs don’t matter any more. Very few people will remember them. Most people will find the site with the help of a search engine. And those who are really interested in getting back to it, will bookmark it. It’s that simple.
What about brand names, you ask? Brand names are important. But you can avoid linking brand names to URLs. What about people’s names? Only a few will remember them. What about original, non-standard domain names? Only few of those will be remembered, the rest will search and bookmark. Why do I have mamchenkov.net domain name then? Because it was available and because it links to my name nicely. If it wasn’t there, I’d use something else. And, in fact, I did use a couple of other domains before I registered mamchenkov.net .
Why all of a sudden I started talking about it? Because today I came across someone else saying practically the same thing – “Do URLs matter anymore?” article over at CNET News, and I quote:
People still try to trade the most simple URLs for hopeful hundreds of thousands. They will still line up in the hope of getting a vanity URL from Facebook. But don’t most people simply go to the little search box, type in the name of what they’re looking for, and search? If it’s something they want to go back to, they’ll bookmark it. But they won’t remember what the URL is. For the simple reason that they don’t need to.