If you hadn't heard via Twitter (and why would you?), I just returned from over two weeks of quality time in Japan. A lot of business and business planning, but also a whole lot of fun. The truly watershed event: this time, I had Steve along. Japan is a place that Steve and I have literally talked about since we were kids, and although I've since been to Japan many times (including a couple trips with my fiancee), Steve's once-monumental and well-beyond-ha-ha-doesn't-flying-suck fear of the aeroplanes kept him from joining me in the past. Now, it's as if his fear has been almost entirely, like, 35-Pass Secure Erased, totally Gutmann-style. Much like a 35-pass erase, it took him a whole lot of time and a whole lot of hard work to get rid of it — but on the plus side Steve's brain is now government compliant and be sold at a garage sale. What's that? I need to cancel my nationwide 35-Pass Erase Comedy Tour? Tough crowd.
Anyway, kudos to Steve. Great to have him there. (And also nice to have Dave and Mike join us later.)
So: Japan stories time!
Within minutes of riding on the first trains in Japan, I notice a significant change in advertising, from train to television. The trend? No more printed URL's. The replacement?
Search boxes!1 With recommended search terms!
It makes sense, right? All the good domain names are gone. Getting people to a specific page in a big site is difficult (who's going to write down anything after the first slash?). And, most tellingly, I see increasingly more users already inadvertently put complete domain names like "gmail" and "netflix" into the Search box of their browsers out of habit — and it doesn't even register that Google pops up and they have to click to get to their destination.
But, I ask you: could this be done in the USA? Wouldn't search spammers and/or "optimizers" ruin this within seconds? I did a few tests with major name brands and they're almost always the top hit on Google (surprisingly, even Panic). But if Nabisco ran a nationwide ad campaign for a hot new product and told users to Google for "Burlap Thins" to learn more, wouldn't someone sneaky get there before they do?
Despite my questions, this trend seems almost inevitable to me. In fact, I bet that some point in the future, Safari's title bar looks a little bit more like this:
1. Like Pokemans, I really enjoyed "collecting" the varied search box design treatments: sometimes OS 9 style boxes, or glossy Vista style buttons, or a pointer, or the classic weird gloved hand, or a bitmap-y font, etc. This is but a small sample.