What is a browser?

Posted in: Uncategorized

It seems like an easy question. A web browser has become so integral to today’s computing experience that it would be hard to imagine what a computer without one would be useful for.

But take a look at this video that Google has posted on YouTube.

So if we ignore that this video is produced by Google and so the results are obviously predisposed to further their own agenda, then I think there are still a few interesting things that come to mind when watching this.

Firstly, I think software developers can sometimes get a little myopic about who their customers are, and I definitely make that mistake myself sometimes. Much of my day revolves around my laptop and my web browser, but for a lot of people, perhaps most people, this is not the case. So we should be careful about making too many assumptions about what our users will or will not understand and how they will or will not use our software.

Secondly, I think that this kind of proves out that the whole debate about whether Microsoft ships Windows with IE embedded in the OS or not is kind of moot. As it turns out, there is a pretty large number of people that can’t identify what IE even is, let alone whether it is IE or Firefox.

Thirdly, the number of people who thought Google was the browser says a lot about what the web experience of most people is. They launch a piece of software (not called a “browser” apparently), they either go to google.com, or it is already their home page, they search (or browse if you will) for what they are looking for, click one of the links on the first page that shows up, and that is the Internet as far as they are concerned.

Fourthly, following on from the previous point, this only serves to reinforce the importance of SEO activities and making sure your site shows up high on that very first page of results on Google.

Fifthly (is that a word?), this might be reading too much into it, but maybe these people are the embodiment of the trend of the browser just simply becoming more and more ubiquitous when using a computer. The delineation between the OS and the browser is fading rapidly. The move towards SAAS style applications, web applications as apposed to just web sites and just generally more and more computing work being moved to the network and less and less being done locally anymore will see this trend continue.

Facebook To Offer Vanity URLs

Posted in: Social Networking

Your profile/page on a social network is key piece of your online presence. So the URL to that little piece of you becomes very important, particularly in terms of branding and SEO.

Most of the social networks provide you with some kind of easy to remember public URL for your profile that usually contains of your username. All except Facebook, where you are subjected to a horrible unfriendly numeric user id as your URL. Which has many downsides, not the least of which it is hard to remember and communicate and the URL of site actually has a big impact on SEO issues and so missing out on having your name in the URL can hurt your search ranking success (this is particularly important if you use a consistent identity across all of your social networks).

However, in a blog post, Facebook has announced that it will support vanity URLs for individual and fan pages starting this weekend (specifically 12:01am EDT Saturday morning).

No doubt there will be a huge land grab when they open this up, so don’t delay!