Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Feb 2010 12:29 UTC
Editorial Recently, a story about people mistaking a news story for the Facebook login page has received considerable media attention. It's currently being seen by many as justification for the recent trend in locking people out of their computers for their own protection - but anyone with even basic mathematical skills and a calculator should come to the conclusion that this story has been blown way out of proportion.
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URLs not really universal
by John Bayko on Wed 17th Feb 2010 14:37 UTC
John Bayko
Member since:
2006-10-20

The location bar in most browsers is also a search box - if you type in facebook, to most people (most of the time) that's the same as typing "http://www.facebook.com/", except without all that stupid, useless stuff computer guys like to put in just to make things complicated. Right?

If entering "facebook" on the location bar doesn't take you to the correct location, it's broken, simple as that.

URLs depend on DNS, which is really just another search engine, just one that has internationally agreed-upon rules to guarantee that the result is always correct, but also never intuitive. For normal people, URLs are as meaningless as a dot-notation address, and are therefore not the primary way to identify a site.

Software developers have a sort of blindness to that sort of thing - mistaking one arbitrary representation for something's intrinsic identifier - and miss the way normal users think and act. What they want is for the location bar to be a "universal bookmark" list that they use whey a site is not in their own list of bookmarks (or they just prefer to type a name). There is no such web site name list, so search engines are used as a substitute - but there easily could be (as a search sub-category maybe?), and should be because that is really the solution.

Reply Score: 3

RE: URLs not really universal
by asdf on Wed 17th Feb 2010 15:15 in reply to "URLs not really universal"
asdf Member since:
2009-09-23

FF address bar has been working fine in that regard for some time now by searching bookmarks and history. It's better than some centralized directory (BTW, who would control that?) because people's interests are different and it adapts to your interests.

While such feature sure is convenient, it isn't all that hard to learn that when a page loads, the dotted string at the top of the browser is the address. The concept is more intuitive than that of ZIP code or phone number. If someone can't learn that, I doubt any amount of protection or dumbing down can save him or her.

There are cases where things can and should be made more intuitive for normal people but this is just a wrong example.

Edited 2010-02-17 15:15 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: URLs not really universal
by qortra on Wed 17th Feb 2010 16:49 in reply to "URLs not really universal"
qortra Member since:
2005-10-05

I disagree. Nothing is broken with regard to DNS and useability. The address notation is the result of compromise to innovation in order to be both unambiguous and internationally useful.

Firstly, DNS isn't a search engine - it isn't even like a search engine. It is a mapping engine, and when it is working properly, it will always be a 1:1 mapping with an unambiguous name and an IP address. Search engines make no such claim. When a search engine is working properly, the top result is essentially the winner of a big popularity contest.

Secondly, nobody has to type in "http://www.facebook.com/", and they haven't for a while (if ever). In a "Web" Browser, the "Web" protocol prefix (HTTP://) can be assumed. Also, the trailing slash can be omitted. Finally, the "www." is taken care of by DNS redirects (if it even has to be). So now we're left with "facebook.com", which is both pretty easy to remember and unambiguous in a web context. If you don't think it's necessary, than it's probably because you live in the US and aren't aware that different countries have their own top level domains and their own trademarks. Anyway, the top level domain is simple enough to work into the marketing.

Thirdly, as another commenter pointed out, you're wrong anyway with regard to Firefox which does indeed open "facebook.com" when "facebook is entered in the address bar. But frankly, I think it shouldn't. I always prefer disambiguation wherever possible, and "facebook" is technically ambiguous.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: URLs not really universal
by Soulbender on Wed 17th Feb 2010 19:46 in reply to "URLs not really universal"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

If entering "facebook" on the location bar doesn't take you to the correct location, it's broken, simple as that.


They didnt type "facebook", they typed "facebook login". The first one always worked while the second one is unclear what is actually meant. The address bar works as it should and google works as it should.

URLs depend on DNS, which is really just another search engine


DNS is a directory, not a search engine.

There is no such web site name list, so search engines are used as a substitute


Guess what happens when you use the wrong tool for the job? Search engines does not list sites, the list search results for content.
There's is NOTHING here that is a technology problem and it can not be solved with technology.

Reply Parent Score: 2