These navigational aids and services have, in return, relieved some of the pressure on the Domain Name System to serve as a de facto directory of the Internet and have somewhat reduced the importance of the registration of memorable domain names. Because of these tight linkages between the DNS and Internet navigation, this chapter and the next ones address—at a high level—the development of the major types of Internet navigational aids and services. This chapter is concerned with their past development. The next chapter deals with their current state. And the final chapter on Internet navigation, Chapter 8, considers the technological prospects and the institutional issues facing them.
After describing the distinctive nature of Internet navigation, this chapter traces the evolution of a variety of aids and services for Internet navigation. While its primary focus is on navigating the World Wide Web, it does not cover techniques for navigation within Web sites, which is the subject of specialized attention by Web site designers, operators, and researchers.2
Navigation across the Internet is sometimes compared to the well-studied problem of readers navigating through collections of printed material and other physical artifacts in search of specific documents or specific artifacts. (See the Addendum to this chapter: “Searching the Web Versus Searching Libraries.”) That comparison illustrates the differences in the technical and institutional contexts for Internet navigation. Internet navigation for some purposes is similar to searches in library environments and relies on the same tools, whereas navigation for other purposes may be performed quite differently via the Internet. The multiple purposes and diverse characteristics listed below combine to make navigating to a resource across the Internet a much more varied and complex activity than those previously encountered. The library examples provide a point of reference and a point of departure for discussion in subsequent chapters.
First, the Internet connects its users to a vast collection of heterogeneous resources that are used for many purposes, including the dissemination of information; the marketing of products and services; communication with others; and the delivery of art, entertainment, and a wide range of commercial and public services. The kinds of resources connected to the Internet include:
See, for example, Merlyn Holmes, Web Usability & Navigation: A Beginner’s Guide, McGraw-Hill/Osborne, Berkeley, Calif., 2002; and Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large Scale Sites, 2nd edition, O’Reilly & Associates, Sebastopol, Calif., 2002.