July 2012

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I've long believed that website URLs are a piece of Internet plumbing: the sort of thing that web practitioners care a lot about, but that the rest of the world ignores, often leading to results that are hard for us plumbers to comprehend.

This is the location bar of Google Chrome. The URL scheme (http://, https:// and so on) is omitted, and everything past the hostname slightly greyed out:

Opera 12 goes further, taking everything that isn't the domain name and dimming it even more than Chrome.

As of the release of Mountain Lion, Safari 6.0 adopts the same style as Chrome, but applies possibly even more contrast than Opera to the “unimportant” bits of the URL.

Internet Explorer has apparently taken the same approach as Opera since IE8, but it does so on this strange planet called Windows that I rarely visit.

I give the location bar two (maybe one, maybe three) “browser generations” until it is merely an optional power-user feature. Browsers will still need a way to enter URLs and search terms, still need a way to copy the browser’s current location into other apps, but neither of these functions demands such a huge chunk of toolbar real-estate and user attention as the location bar now occupies.

Removing the URL from full-time display in favour of showcasing just the domain-name and SSL padlock might even save one or two of those poor souls who previously didn't notice that they were visiting www.paypal.com.hacker.ru.

Sydney Double Rainbow

Double Rainbow

Tom DeMarco revisits his earliest work on Software Engineering and the importance of metrics, and realises he got it wrong:

Implicit in the quote (and indeed in the book’s title) is that control is an important aspect, maybe the most important, of any software project. But it isn’t. Many projects have proceeded without much control but managed to produce wonderful products such as GoogleEarth or Wikipedia.

What’s immediately apparent is that control is really important for Project A [cost $1m, value $1.1m] but almost not at all important for Project B [cost $1m, value $50m]. This leads us to the odd conclusion that strict control is something that matters a lot on relatively useless projects and much less on useful projects. It suggests that the more you focus on control, the more likely you’re working on a project that’s striving to deliver something of relatively minor value.

Software Engineering: An Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone?, by Tom DeMarco, Computing Now, 2009. Hat tip to James Roper for the link.