What is the Future of Direct Navigation?

This is probably one of the hottest topics in the Domain Industry period – what is happening to direct navigation? While I don’t rely on direct navigation for any of my own income many Domainers do. Heck – this is how the industry started, the early investors quickly found-out that their domain names had a value far beyond the name itself – they were getting traffic and in some cases lots of it!

In the early days of the Internet it was hard to find what you were looking for, there was this Yahoo Directory but it didn’t always work very well. Then came Google with a whole new algorithm and a new way to organize the web and – poof – the world changed.

Fast-forward to 2011 and now just about everyone has a smartphone with a browser built-in and the data is clear, smartphone users are searchers not direct navigators. Couple this with an already increased focus on searching vs. typing-in what you’re looking for and it’s easy to see why direct navigation might be declining.

To make matters worse I read on Michael Berken’s blog yesterday that Google might be getting rid of the URL bar on Chrome completely! This would be a big move however it would take Firefox or Internet Explorer removing the URL bar to make a real impact. Still – it shows how the world is changing and while it’s easy for us to blame Google for everything it’s important to look at how the experience of using the web has changed.

Whether you like it or not search is in and it’s how more and more people are finding what they are looking for online each day. Also more people are surfing the web than ever before thanks to the incredible proliferation of smartphones opening access to anyone whether they have a computer or not. If you have a smartphone then you know how easy it is to search and how often you’ll find yourself searching for things, that is if there’s not an app for what you’re trying to do!

So my question to all of you is – what is the future of direct navigation? How will people use the Internet ten years from now and are you setting yourself up for a lifetime of passive income, or a dwindling revenue stream that fizzles out over time? I’m not saying I know all the answers – many of you are much more experienced than me when it comes to direct navigation. So hit me with it! Let me know – what is the future of direct navigation?

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Anders February 22, 2011, 2:24 am

    I wouldn´t know first hand, but I´d say that type-in traffic is likely waning. The “golden oldies” still type in. But internet users today are searching for the best site to visit, and the development of the means to find it will redefine the internet.

    The question is what that will mean for domains and their value.

  • del February 22, 2011, 3:58 am

    I wonder if the keyword domains will have an edge on the search bar?

  • Jeff Schneider February 22, 2011, 4:56 am

    Hello Morgan,

    In the world of duality that we all live in there are some truths that never change.
    We agree with much of what you say here and please do not think we are picking on you . We have modified your statement below to reflect a reality of the Underlying Market Forces at Play.

    “Whether you like it or not search is in and it’s how more and more people are finding what they are looking for online each day. ” Although Direct Navigation is GAINING not declining!

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger)

  • Gene February 22, 2011, 5:05 am

    Thanks for this post, Morgan – very timely.

    Direct navigation is clearly on the decline; but probably won’t end, entirely. However, this trend (atop the others that have adversely affected domainers) will leave us with only two real sources of future revenue.

    The first is, of course, development of ‘sticky’ sites that people will actually want to visit, routinely; and the second is sales of quality names (especially) to startups.

    I’m a big believer in building dedicated portfolios consisting of future trend names; on the theory that as the trend comes into its own – and you own most of the virtual real estate in that space -, it’ll be difficult for players to avoid knocking on your door when they need to acquire property in that neighborhood.

    Even if the address bar is eliminated or hidden in the next browser upgrade, that will not change the need for businesses to have a quality domain name — at least for the foreseeable future.


  • Steve February 22, 2011, 7:03 am

    Everyone needs an easy to remember name for their business or personal online identity. Trying to remember what search engine or social network you found that thing on or what the 8 syllable domain name was, is and will continue to be difficult. The only thing to date that provides an easy to remember online identity is a short, subject relevant domain name. imho

  • James February 22, 2011, 7:17 am

    I think in ten years time, direct navigation will be virtually obsolete. That will completely change the value of short, memorable domains such as lll.com’s. Descriptive names with high monthly searches will be the most desirable names IMO.

  • John February 22, 2011, 9:04 am

    Direct navigation will never die. There will always be folks that want to directly navigate to domains without interference.

    I agree that it gets marginalized by new things like Facebook and IPads, etc….. and Jeff is wrong IMO about it increasing. I have domain stats going back to 1997. How many folks reading this blog or involved in the industry can say that? I can see the search of direct navigation having gone down……but honestly it has now mostly flattened out. Will it go down more? Maybe. Will it die off? Never will. Addresses will always be used. You still can’t do a single thing on the Net without a domain, and if someone owned ever domain in existence, they would control 100% of the Internet. Think about that for one second and you will understand the power of domains. Direct Nav will never die off…..I promise you.

    BTW…….the Chrome Browser removal of the search bar article is being misread. They will remove it to make more room/real estate for the browser, but the search bar will still be in each INDIVIDUAL tab. So, no the search bar is not disappearing, it’s just moving.

  • Jim Holleran February 22, 2011, 10:18 am


    Is Chrome 10% market share in the USA or is it worldwide?

    I been in this industry since 1997, and was excited about Google when they first came out However, Google is not domainer friendly anymore, and unless we band together as domainers and do something about it, we are looking at a “monopoly” for years to come and monopoly always screws the consumers. That is why, I am really pulling for Microsoft/Bing/Yahoo to rise up, along with anybody who might be on the horizon.

    Also, I can see Google having many anti-trust issues coming up. However, we all know “lobbyist” have too much power and influence those decisions. As always time will tell.

    Thanks, Jim

    Thanks, Jim

  • Jeff Schneider February 22, 2011, 2:12 pm

    Hello Morgan,

    This is hilarious ! Do you all realize that when someone uses aURL bar to punch in Google, Yahoo can you you think of others?? This by definition is DIRECT NAVIGATION ! Like I said Direct Navigation is and especially now and into the future on the increase. You all better do your homework before you speak. AMAZING !!

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger)


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