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Websites, and searches, and e-mail addresses, oh my

Computers have become integral in our lives, and most people make considerable use of them these days.

Although, there is some indication that computers are starting to become passé as people seen to be moving on to using their cellular phones for tasks that computers used to do – such as looking up websites and texting.

People seem to be so addicted to texting that they apparently do it while driving, which has led to a sharp upswing in accidents and deaths on the highway. It must be addiction if people are endangering themselves and others by taking their eyes off the road as they drive to compose messages, or to read messages from others. (We say: For heaven’s sake, pull over if you are going to do that!)

However, no matter how many years people have been using computers, we at THE BEE have observed over and over that some people still misunderstand some simple things about using websites and e-mail. Undoubtedly some readers will be rolling their eyes in disbelief about what follows, but trust us – smart people who make considerable use of computers are still making these mistakes. And somebody’s got to help them out.

Number one. It astounded us, the first time we encountered it, to find a sharp, college-educated person thought you had to use a search engine to go to a website they already knew the exact address of. But we have seen this happen over and over and over since then.

Apparently Google has been very successful in leading people to think they can only go to a website by searching for it! (When you do, of course, they present ads to you, so they love it when you do that.)

It’s a little like the remarkable folk legend, fostered by the cable companies, that for decades has led smart people to think they can only get LOCAL television by signing up with a cable company – even though the local stations are transmitting with hundreds of thousands of watts of power from less than five miles away to Inner Southeast Portland, and deliver perfect pictures to anyone who hooks up even a simple indoor antenna. For free! But, we digress.

Here’s the thing. If you know a website’s address, that’s all you need to go directly to it! Just type it into the browser bar, and there you are. You don’t even need to type in that “http://” which precedes every actual web address – the browser you use does that for you, so most web addresses leave it out.

You would only use a search engine like Google, or Bing, or Yahoo, or some of the others available, if you DON’T know the exact web address. If you type in the name of the business or individual, or the term you are searching for, the search engine will give you lots of possible websites, starting with the most likely ones (topped with the ones who pay them to be on top of the list!!).

But if you type the exact address you want into a SEARCH engine, you REDUCE the chances of finding it – because the search engine will give you tons of possible alternatives. If you are lucky, the one you want may be on top, but if the search engine has not indexed it yet – and, when we have checked this ourselves, we have found Google to be the very slowest to index a new site, sometimes taking months to do it – you may not find the website you want on the search list at all!

It’s like a reverse GPS! You actually reduce the ease of going to the website you already know the address of by typing it into a search engine; you thereby reject going to the specific address, in favor of getting a ton of general addresses to pick through!

So cut that out. If you know the actual web address, type it into the browser bar, and do NOT use a search engine. You’ll go directly there.

And only if you don’t find it there, should you go ahead and try the search engine approach.

Number two. The other thing that we find is still a confusion for some intelligent people is that they are mixing up websites and e-mail addresses.

If you send an e-mail to a “www” address, it won’t get there. If you type an e-mail address into your “browser bar” you will not get there either.

Websites often start with “www”, although some are presented these days starting with the part that follows the W’s, such as “readthebee.com”. (The lack of W’s is confusing to a lot of people, and we always encourage using them in stories and advertisements, if they are applicable.)

If there is an “@” in there somewhere, it is NOT a website, it is an e-mail address. If it starts with “http://” or “www” it is ALWAYS a website. One thing that BOTH websites and e-mail addresses have in common is an “extension” at the end – such as “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, etc.

If you doubt that anybody really does mix this up in this day and age, let us simply tell you that we have been given several different business cards this year so far, from different businesspeople we have met, that show their e-mail address as: [name]@www.[business name].com.

That’s a mash-up of website and e-mail protocols that won’t work either way as it’s presented here. (Take out those W’s, though, and it might.)

Hope that helps.

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