Saturday, May 10, 2014

What shape is your Intranet?

@djbressler tells us he is work­ing on a thought-piece about the bifur­ca­tion of the intranets from the Inter­net. In the meantime, in a post called Burying the URL (May 2014), he comments on an experimental build of Chrome, which continues the trend of hiding the URL and encouraging people to use search instead. Obviously it benefits Google when people rely exclusively on search. But it's not just Google's Chrome that is doing this; Firefox and Mobile Safari are also going in this direction.

In my post What shape is the internet (September 2010), I said that shifting the emphasis from URL hotlinks to search undermines the idea of the internet's being web-shaped. This point is also made in a post by @apike, referenced by David and also called Burying the URL (April 2014).

URLs are the essence. They make hypertext hyper. The term “web” is no accident – it refers to this explicitly.
See also an excellent Twitter debate following @apike's tweet.

When David talks about bifurcation, he means that "enter­prise IT is diverg­ing enter­prise tech­nol­ogy from con­sumer tech­nol­ogy in a way that’s cre­at­ing two irrec­on­cil­able branches of tech­nol­ogy". He observes that most company intranets have a pretty lousy search facility.

But most company intranets have pretty lousy cross-linking as well. They are mostly just pdf graveyards stuffed with documents of indeterminate pedigree, which people are often reluctant to waste time searching (even if the search facility were better) because they don't expect to find anything of value.

Actually, you can't always find what you are looking for on the Internet either, and that has a lot to do with the limitations of search, but there are enough amusing distractions to conceal this fact. Surely we don't want our company intranets to copy the internet too closely?

And remember that the data revealing Enron's problems were cheerfully displayed on the Enron website. But nobody important had bothered to look at these documents properly. (Actually, a bunch of students had analysed them years previously and concluded that Enron was bankrupt. They probably got low marks for that assignment!)

There is an increasingly common belief that the tech­nol­ogy used inside com­pa­nies should work the same way as outside, should provide the same "affordance". This is not Bring Your Own Device but Bring Your Own Paradigm Expectations. I guess I should work on a thought piece about this.

Related posts

What shape is the internet (September 2010)
Bring Your Own Expectations (May 2014)

See also Steven Poole, The pdf graveyards can only expect an increase in their undead populations (Guardian 9 May 2014)

1 comment:

Iain Heron said...

Hiding the URLs will take power away from the users and give it to Google, which is an unpleasant thought. They already have too much power over our information. If the other browsers also follow suit there will be a bifurcation of users: those who use the mainstream browsers and those who use the smaller browsers that will emerge to cater for more astute users.
I agree with your comments on search - I believe it is only a matter of time before semantic search engines become more popular. Cogito by Expert Systems is an impressive example.