URLs are the Web's unique superpower.
Over the past two decades, the heart of the Web has come to seem ordinary, forgettable. Some software has gone so far as to bury it and make it invisible, but it still worked its magic behind the scenes. As competing systems have made it disappear, though, absence has made many hearts grow fonder.
The humble URL is pretty ugly. The Web’s creator, Tim Berners-Lee, was embarrassed that people looked at them. It’s plain text, the computing interface that came right after punchcards and switches. The openings are always verbose, with a long “http://” (or similar) preceding the actual place you want to go. Excessively abstract debates about URIs aside, automated systems’ fondness for opaque identifiers has made many URLs hideous piles of characters that only a lookup table could enjoy. (Are QR codes even uglier?)
Even done badly, however, the URL is perhaps the most powerful innovation in networking history. While prior systems (IP addresses, DNS, and similar) had let us connect computers, URLs let us connect people’s creations. URLs let us share other people’s ideas, and promote our own ideas. The power to say “this bit of text will (mostly) reliably get you this content today” is a basic feature fundamental to the Web’s triumph.
"Humans are the routers." It's an idea that's ready to catch on.
The web of things and less intrusive "wearables" could reignite the personal area network, at least in a slightly different form from years past.
URL shorteners have upside, but they also raise issues around stability, privacy, and performance.
Link shorteners have become part of the web's social fabric, but is that a good thing? In this piece we take a look at the key issues surrounding shorteners: stability, obfuscation, performance and privacy.
Opponents can shed their rhetoric and reveal new depths to their thought when you bring them together for rapid-fire exchanges, sometimes with their faces literally inches away from each other. That made it worth my while to truck down to the MIT Media Lab for yesterday’s Workshop on Innovation, Investment and the Open Internet, sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission. The event showed that innovation and investment are not always companions on the Internet. An in-depth look at the current state of the debate over competition and network neutrality.