The death of the URL

This was actually the title of a blog post written by Chris Messina in 2009. A blog post about which I have been thinking a lot last year - 2015.

The URL is the reference to a document on a computer network that tells our computers where to find a resource and the mechanism on how to retrieve it.
It is the unique identifier to any document on the internet and everyone of us is invited to create such an identifier. We do not need to ask anyone for permission. Every document that we publish on the internet has a URL.

Is the URL dead? Here are two examples that especially made me worry lately:

My young cousin and his smart phone:

My cousin got his first smart phone for his own use. He learned that to make his mobile computer useful he has to download apps from the app store. A big corporation (in his case google) decides what is good for him and what he can find in that store and buy and use. Even if he would enter a URL to some of the apps he wants to use the website only shows him logos of the big app stores - and maybe a facebook like button. Also for communicating with his friends he used the play store to download whatsapp and all his friends have to do the same. That's how he grows up.

Mobile app developers:

In the last months I have been talking and working with a lot of young developers from East Africa (but location actually does not matter). They all are excited about building mobile apps. Which is great, but it took me a while to understand that "mobile app" actually means "native android app" in most cases. Young developers grow up and learn how to build apps for a very specific platform and that they have to comply with google's terms to publish their products. And "app" also means simple content pages. This is how they learn programming.

In both examples the URL is pretty much irrelevant. These examples are very mobile focused but are true for many other cases. Read Chris' post from 2009 it is all still true.

Back in 2009 actually I did not realize the implications and honestly I have not been that worried. What I have totally missed and not thought about are all the internet new comers.  All the people who now get internet access for the first time. The generation of my cousin, people in corners of the world that now get internet access, my parents or people who access the internet through other proprietary devises (like TVs or fridges), etc.

It is important how people learn to use the internet, unlearning is generally harder. Let's keep fighting for the URL.