Search for… not visit…

Jakob Nielsen previously (1999) suggested that we are likely to see the end of domain names as more and more people used search engines to find what they are looking for:

It is likely that domain names only have 3-5 years left as a major way of finding sites on the Web. In the long term, it is not appropriate to require unique words to identify every single entity in the world. That’s not how human language works. […]

New addressing schemes are likely to be introduced with better support for ambiguity and the ability to find things without knowing the exact spelling. Search engines and directories are an early attempt, but we can surely do better.

Obviously this hasn’t happened yet – and companies continue to pay large sums of money for domains and advertise their products and services via the URL on TV, posters and radio. And until last night I had never seen anyone try anything different.

But last night a TV advert was run by the UK Department of Transport to help people reduce their Carbon Dioxide emissions. The campaign is called ‘Act on CO²‘ and the advert ended not with a URL but with the instruction:

Search the web for ‘Act on CO²’ for more information”

Which returns on Google, Yahoo the campaign’s site top of the search pile and on Ask, A9 and Microsoft’s Live Search the site in the top few.

This is really interesting. They could have gone and registered a new domain (and risked link rot) or publicised the URL (www.dft.gov.uk/ActOnCO2) – but I guess they realised that its not a great URL to read out (nor remember) and in any case most people will search for it – so why not just reinforce that behavior and tell people to that instead.

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