Due to trends from the search and mobile industries, Evan WIlliams has proposed that domain names are fading from central business strategy in the digital category.
Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other bits of identifying information used to commonly be memorized and within easy reach. Such data is now in our cell phones and email clients, popping up within one or two clicks, and new contacts rarely get a place in our brains. Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, believes that domain names will join their ranks as well, thanks to recent iterations of Web browsers, and especially to Google.
With Google's simple search page, many Internet users have simply come to equate the single dialog box with an instant portal to their desired Web site. These casual users do not know the difference between a URL box and the search box, illustrated clearly by Williams' example of a ReadWriteWeb article from last year. In that post, the RWW writer discusses the Facebook login page, as well as some other news. The comments section was then flooded by confused visitors wanting to login to Facebook - because they had typed "Facebook login" into Google Search, and clicked on the first result, which happened on that day to be this article about Facebook login.
Autocomplete is another speedy tool used that further distances us from concrete addresses - many e-mail clients suggest previously emailed contacts when we start to enter a name, Web browsers reference our history to suggest Web sites, and Google's Chrome browser even combines the URL bar and search box into one convenient yet confusing strip. "In fact, with Chrome," Williams explains, "Google has combined the search box and the address bar in such a beautiful way, that you don't really have to remember anything."
The next two factors are mobile related - hidden address bars and apps. Many developers have been hiding the address bar in mobile browsers to save space on the small screen. This further de-emphasizes awareness of concrete domain names. Apps, and the marketplaces where they are found and downloaded, access data via direct connection, accessing the Internet without the use of a browser.
These reasons and the presence of startup success without a strategic ".com" URL show a trend where a domain name is less critical than before. Companies need good names and good strategies, and can pay for a cleaner branded domain later.