URLs, URLs everywhere: They

The Internet has become so over-hyped that even my 80-year-old father has grown tired of hearing about it.

He’s sitting in his favourite chair on a recent evening, his ears keenly focused on a battered transistor radio by his side squawking out the ballgame, his eyes scowling at the hockey game flickering on his RCA TV (circa 1972), the kind that has actual knobs and dials.

The commercials being broadcast at regular intervals seem to annoy him more than usual of late.

“Dot-com!” he mutters. “Everything today is dot-com. You can’t turn on the television or the radio for five minutes without hearing dot-com-this and dot-com-that!”

Bear in mind, this commentary is coming from a man who has never once surfed the Web, never even used a calculator when doing his taxes because he “doesn’t trust computers.” And yet, he makes a shrewd observation. The invasion of URLs in everyday life – from radio ads to billboards – has become, well, invasive.

When is the last time you drank a cup of coffee, ate a chocolate bar or rode on public bus that didn’t have a Web address plastered on it somewhere? I suspect there are even some people walking around Silicon Valley – the proverbial dot-com land – with URLs tattooed permanently on their bodies. I’m almost sure of it.

And yet when was the last time you looked at the Web site listed on that coffee cup or chocolate wrapper and felt inspired to go on-line? Worse than the invasiveness of this URL bombardment is the fact that it is largely irrelevant to most of our lives. We are either too busy using the Web for actual work, or we are like Dad, and would rather do without it, thank-you very much.

I had the opportunity to listen to an industry observer commenting at a recent press conference about this phenomenon. His belief is that the Internet is getting so big that it’s losing its effectiveness. He said the Web is moving towards a subscription-based model, which includes targeted marketing, portals and e-marketplaces. In other words, soon the only way to achieve value from this wonderful, free service will be to pay someone to filter it for you – kind of like having cable TV.

I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I do think Dad’s onto something. Perhaps in the not-so-distant future, companies will try something a little different to get our attention. Maybe, in a few months NOT having a huge Web presence will be so square that it’s hip. Ya never know.