URLs and searching

This is something that I’ve observed with amusement in my short time as tech support/reference librarian: people who sit down at a computer to visit a specific website, and instead of typing in the easy URL (for example, http://www.simmons.edu) they do a search (“simmons boston”). And I always wonder — why? I regularly guess at URLs rather than search for a website, and more often than not (especially with large companies or well-known brands) I’m right. (Let’s not talk about how I can never remember how to spell . . . Amtrack? Amtrak?) Does this mean people just don’t understand what a URL is, and the component pieces? Or does it point more to the popularity of using bookmarks/favorites, and the fact that once you don’t have to remember something, you won’t remember it? It’s sort of like having a cell phone — there are very few people whose phone numbers I actually know offhand. Or is it just that I’m that much more comfortable on the Internet than a lot of folks?

When I started seeing commercials that instruct the viewer to “search Honda on Yahoo!” or whatever, I really started to wonder: does searching online really make more sense to people than remembering or jotting down an easy URL? According to a recent post on ReadWriteWeb:

. . . the answer appears to be a somewhat surprising “yes.” Of the 10 fastest rising search terms on Google last year, 7 were for searches where adding a “.com” would have brought the user to the correct site. These are called “navigational” searches — searches done when the user already knows exactly where he or she wants to end up — and they make up a surprising large number of total seaches.

I wait for the day when someone uses the Google seach box built into Firefox to get to Google and do a search.

In ever-so-slightly related news, a post in March caught my eye as well: “The Internet will end in 30 years!” This talks about a flaw in the way Unix-based systems store the time. The really interesting thing is that this flaw might affect things like traffic lights and gas pumps and other systems like that, which I think a lot of people don’t even really think about as having anything to do with “computers” in the general sense. The piece also mentions that “legacy systems” and “embedded systems” might also be affected — makes me wonder how many ILS’ will randomly stop working at 3:14 AM on January 19, 2038. Will this force vendors to start afresh with new systems? Will there be an increase in libraries switching to new systems in 2023 and 2024? How many¬† years prior to 2038 will people start worrying about this in the library literature and in the biblioblogosphere? Anyway, just thought that was interesting and have been meaning to share it.