What is this “address bar” you speak of?

I noticed a disturbing trend recently among many users. This includes my coworkers, students and family. See if you noticed it too. I can for example tell someone to go to some website – let’s say I want to point someone to this very blog. I would simply tell them to go to terminally-incoherent.com. This is the process these users go through to get to my site:

  1. Open IE which by default opens up the MSN website with all the flashing flash animations
  2. They click in the address bar and type in http://www.google.com (yes, they actually type in http and www parts)
  3. Then they click in the Google search box despite the fact that Google uses Javascript to make it the active box on the page
  4. They type in http://www.terminally-incoherent.com in the search box
  5. They click the search button with their mouse
  6. Finally they inspect the search results and click on the link to my page

I swear – this happens so often that I no longer get surprised to see it. I can understand the excessive clicks and the silly insistence on typing http and www in front of every address. What I really do not get is why people insist on using Google as the intermediate step when trying to navigate to some address?

In fact we had a guy call up our help desk recently because he could not access one of the company’s new websites. I think he spent half an hour on the phone doing various troubleshooting steps before someone realized that he was actually using the process outlined above. Naturally the website, being an internal service used only by the employees is not and does not need to be indexed by Google. When he was instructed to type in the URL he was very confused and it took him 3 or 4 follow up questions to actually locate this “mysterious address bar”.

The things users do these days baffle me sometimes. I really do not understand their logic. It’s almost as if there was this huge gap between us and the lusers. And instead of closing up, this gap seems to be widening as new generations grow up with technology learning to use it without ever even trying to understand it.

It’s funny, back in the day used to wonder how the future will look. It seemed really bright and positive back then. We figured that kids will be growing up with technology, and using computers on every day basis. We figured that they will play and tinker just the way we did, and every generation will be more computer literate. We were wrong.

The level of computer literacy did not increase. The kids learn to use computers very early, but they do not learn how to understand them. The myspace generation has no fucking clue about technology – all they know is how to awkwardly browse the web and IM eachother all day. Nothing else.

It almost seems like some of us are predisposed for this stuff. We are naturally drawn towards technology and we love figuring out how things work, and how to do things better and faster using the available tools. Others are destined to remain clueless forever despite the fact they have every single opportunity to learn and experiment. Having easy access to technology does not always imply any level of familiarity with it.

[tags]address bar, google, browsing, internet, clueless[/tags]

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17 Responses to What is this “address bar” you speak of?

  1. Mackenzie UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    I know what you mean about people going too anything and everything using google. I have a friend who visits facebook by typing in http://www.google.com then using it too search for facebook, instead of typing in facebook.com. It’s actaully pretty disturbing. And as for computer literacy- how the arcane windows logic works is never explained. It’s just trial and error from a young age.

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  2. Sam UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Linux says:

    I know exactly what you mean. Although I encounter it more with people older than myself (i’m from the myspace generation), usually over 35. Why can’t people just use the sodding address bar! It’s definitely true that the majority of people learn enough about computers to be able to use google, social networking sites and an IM app (usually msn messenger) but call people like you and me (the local computer guy) if it gets any more complicated than that.

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  3. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Let’s see I’m a firefox user and I want to visit http://www.terminally-incoherent.com. I have it bookmarked and i subscribe to it in RSS both in liferea and googlereader but I’m lazy. I just type luke into the address bar and viola I’m here. gotta love those firefox key words after all I might forget how to spell termiinally or incoherant (lol) or forget the – or whatever.

    Ah some people just are not curious, don’t care and don’t wanna know is about i can say.

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  4. Gothmog UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Preach it, brother!
    I, too, have felt despair at the growing tide of lusers out there. Sometime the fight against lazy thinking will make you dejected.

    I recently had to investigate how to move/import an execs Outlook address autocomplete (the nk2 file), because the exec got a new laptop and had NEVER saved any email addys into his contacts, and depended on the autocomplete for all his correspondence. The problem was compounded by the fact that we had already imaged and re-deployed his old system. I ended up exporting his sent items to a csv and importing THAT into a contacts folder. Then I taught him how to use Ctrl+K to check that folder.

    What a pain.

    A week later, I checked up on him and he was happily using the autocomplete again. :(

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  5. Dr Small UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    This is sad, and I have seen friends and relatives do it for years :(

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    [quote post="2284"]And as for computer literacy- how the arcane windows logic works is never explained.[/quote]

    The arcane windows logic is probably understood by Mark Russinovich and probably no one else. ;) Even the head Windows devs probably only know parts of it. But you can figure out a lot of things on your own – things like keyboard shortcuts, and other power user tricks are well documented all over the internets.

    [quote post="2284"]gotta love those firefox key words after all I might forget how to spell termiinally or incoherant (lol) or forget the – or whatever.[/quote]

    Yeah, leave it to me to pick a domain name that can be misspelled in like 15 different ways. :mrggeen:

    [quote post="2284"]A week later, I checked up on him and he was happily using the autocomplete again[/quote]

    Oh boy! That auto complete thing drives me nuts regularly. I haven’t used Thunderbird in a while, but I distinctly remember that it had a feature that allowed you to add addresses from all outgoing emails to the address book automatically.

    In fact, this is what Gmail seems to do these days too. Perhaps this should be a default behavior for Outlook.

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  7. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Yeah.. Firefox FTW. Just hit in the most important part of the address and you’re off. Going through Google for everything would be tantamount to torturous for me, and yet… so many people do it.

    My dad’s still getting to used to the shortcuts of the computing world – he knows how to do the limited set of things he wants/needs to do, but as described, does them in a sub-optimal way.

    Goes back to the Firefox start page to use Google instead of using the search box (may need to formally introduce him to that… I know I’ve used it while he was watching and mentioned it in passing but never said it hard enough to make it stick apparently).

    Goes through the whole click-type-click thing for logins or searches, no tabbing or enter-pressing here.

    Even drags the scroll bars about instead of using the scroll wheel :(

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  8. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    I have a parallel problem – the users I work with know the address bar alright, they just don’t know the URL of the netapp they use all the time. Sit them down in front of a rebuilt computer/fresh login and they can never remember, even though they use the URL as the name of the thing in conversation every day.

    In reference to point #2, I can understand typing in the ‘www’ as some sites don’t work without it (misconfigured usually).

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  9. Starhawk UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    The Add bookmarks here extension helps with FF keywords because you can set the extensions preferences to allow ya to add key words when ya bookmark something.

    Matt`

    Even drags the scroll bars about instead of using the scroll wheel

    A cool trick I use is to enable autoscroll (where you middle-click and a little arrow like graphic appears and you scroll just by moving the mouse up or down ), in about:config set general.autoScroll to true.

    A lot easier for me because I read lots online and my finger gets tired, this way i can set the screen scrolling about the same speed i read and don’t have to mess with it. lol

    And btw Luke I’m not getting notifications on comments here tho I am subscribed, hmm. Something going on on your end,

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    [quote post="2284"]Even drags the scroll bars about instead of using the scroll wheel [/quote]

    Yeah, my aunt was doing that. I demonstrated the scroll wheel magic to her. She used it for five minutes and then went back to clicking and dragging. Sigh…

    [quote post="2284"]I have a parallel problem – the users I work with know the address bar alright, they just don’t know the URL of the netapp they use all the time.[/quote]

    Yeah, all the users who do not do the google thing rely on the auto-complete memory of the address bar. For example, if you are in my office, and you want to access the timesheet web-application all you need to do is to type in “time” into the search bar and press enter. The app is actually hosted in the datacenter but we have a nice VPN tunel so it appears like a local server.

    What do my users do? They click on the arrow next to the address bar and start scrolling down looking for it. The funny thing is that they were doing that the day we actually set up that domain name. I was like “no you have to type it in, you never been there before”.

    Blank stare… Turns back to the monitor…

    Scroll, scroll, scroll…

    Aaaargh!

    [quote post="2284"]And btw Luke I’m not getting notifications on comments here tho I am subscribed, hmm. Something going on on your end[/quote]

    Sigh… Fucking dreamhost. Never a dull moment with these guys.

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  11. Robert JAPAN Opera Mac OS says:

    Interestingly, over in Japan most advertisements in trains, on TV etc. show a little text box with the company/product/service name etc. entered in and a button labeled “Search” next to it with a mouse cursor over it. In other words, instead of printing the URL they ask people to search for this term. I wonder how often it doesn’t work as expected :).

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  12. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    [quote post="2284"]Interestingly, over in Japan most advertisements in trains, on TV etc. show a little text box with the company/product/service name etc. entered in and a button labeled “Search” next to it with a mouse cursor over it.[/quote]

    Interesting… I never been to Japan so I’m not sure how it works over there, but could it be because of the disjunction between the domain name and the actual company logo/product name? I imagine a lot of companies might use western alphabet for domain names (eg. sony.jp or something like that) but their company logo (or the brand name of the product) might be in kanji or something like that.

    Anyway, this is a wild speculation and I’m probably wrong. :P

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  13. Miloš UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I have noticed this as well, but have hoped that I was misinterpreting the future of technology savvy individuals.

    While this means that a good chunk of new lusers will be exactly that, lusers I hope that none of them will ever be at a level of one of our older users who called us the other day with the following problem:

    “I have an optical mouse and a multi-colored surface. I’m afraid that multiple colors/shades of my desk are confusing my mouse. Should I get a single colored surface?” WTF!

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  14. JFargo UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I can answer a part of this question for you, surprisingly, though not all of it.

    I actually asked a few people at work why they would do this, as it was a waste of time, and stupid. I didn’t phrase it that way exactly, but I think it might have come across.

    Apparently, they (mistakenly) believe that by going to Google and typing the webpage in the search instead of in the address bar, they get past the security measures that are tracking their internet usage. Since they don’t type it directly into the address bar, they believe there’s no way to track what they’re doing.

    I laughed for a good long time when they told me that and the rest of the office agreed.

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  15. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    [quote post="2284"]“I have an optical mouse and a multi-colored surface. I’m afraid that multiple colors/shades of my desk are confusing my mouse. Should I get a single colored surface?” WTF![/quote]

    Ah, but see – at least he is trying. I have a guy in the office who basically wants a new wireless mouse every couple of weeks because “it stopped working”. I have no clue what his deal is since the mouse work perfectly for me. But once he decides a mouse is broken he will refuse to use claiming that it will stop working again at some point. Sigh.. But he is a director, and boss told me to just keep him happy so just I order him a new mouse whenever he needs one amd usually give the “broken” one to someone else. All the people who inherited these were very happy with them and no one has ever complained about it suddenly stopping to work. :P

    [quote post="2284"]Apparently, they (mistakenly) believe that by going to Google and typing the webpage in the search instead of in the address bar, they get past the security measures that are tracking their internet usage. Since they don’t type it directly into the address bar, they believe there’s no way to track what they’re doing.[/quote]

    LOL! But this is not the reason people I know are doing it. We don’t track the web traffic at my company so there is no reason for them to do this. I have also seen my students do this, and also family members do it in their own house – I mean they clearly can’t be worried about Sysadmin snooping on their web browsing habits.

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  16. kotnik SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO Mozilla Firefox Debian GNU/Linux says:

    Yeah, people like search engines…

    My gf does this all the time. I tried to talk some sense into her, but that failed miserably. So I started not to mind.

    Anyway, that’s more the excuse to take $$$ for SEO :)

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