Seek and ye shall find-maybe
By Charles Miller
Not long ago I had an appointment with a new client who admits she knows very little about modern technology, especially the laptop computer she had been given by her grandchildren. As it turns out, did not know it was even possible to type in an address for a web site. She just assumed that the home page that displayed when she opened her browser had links on it, and those were the only places the computer could go. She had no idea how to use the Address Bar in her browser to type in “www.nytimes.com” to visit the New York Times web page. Please, do not dare laugh! Let me explain why:
Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, OM, KBE, FRS, FREng, FRSA is the British computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. He, among others, has been quoted as saying he is somewhere between disappointed and horrified at how the WWW developed. In 1989 when he implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the internet it was never intended that today people would need to type in difficult addresses such as “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Url#Syntax” in order to access specific sites on the web. Far from that, the concept was that everyone would be able to do as the lady in the introductory paragraph and simply click on a hypertext link to go wherever then wanted to go on the internet. Things did not exactly work out as planned, and much to everyone’s continuing confusion it is frequently necessary to place your fingers on the keyboard and type in a convoluted address.
A common point of confusion is the difference between going directly to an address versus searching for an address. Think of it this way: If you get into a taxi and tell the driver “321 Main Street, building 4, apartment 39” you can be reasonably sure of being driven to that address. If you say “Take me to some apartment on Main” then you may or may not get to where you want to go without some detours along the way.
The internet works the same way. If you specifically tell your browser to connect to the New York Times at www.nytimes.com then that is where you will go. If you search for “New York Times” then maybe you will get New York, maybe the Trenton New Jersey Times. You might get an article mentioning New York in the London Times or the Shreveport Times. Searching for an address is always an indirect approach and always involves at least one detour you would not have taken if you had first entered the address directly. This is not to say that searching is wrong, just understand that searching is an indirect route to your destination.
Another point to understand about searching for an address versus going directly to that web address is that there might be an element of bias in search results. Different search engine databases can be subject to censorship or preference for advertisers and are sometimes geographically focused. When you search through Google you will see the results they want you to see, if you use Yahoo the results may be slightly different.
The engineers who designed the World Wide Web envisioned something easier to use than what we have today, and they are still working toward that goal. As much as Sir Timothy may lament how things have turned out, if you want to visit his biographic page you may type in “http://” to tell your browser you want to connect via hypertext, “www.” to specify you want to connect to the World Wide Web, “w3.org/” to specify a web site for The World Wide Web Consortium, “People/” for a specific folder on that web site, and finally “Berners-Lee/” for his biography page. Or you may search for Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee using your favorite search engine… and enjoy the detours you may end up taking along the way.
Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.