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dot life Monday, 27 May, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
IQ of 108 and can't remember anything? Don't stress.
The days of having to remember lots of e-mail address, websites, even phone numbers are over. So free your mind!
Since the internet explosion began in the late 1990s, many non-technical users have complained about website addresses.

The letters "http://" and ".com" have become cliches, and the punchline for various anti-geek jokes.

Most people simply don't understand what internet addresses mean, and when told that URL means "Uniform Resource Locator" and that http means "hyper text transfer protocol", they feel less than enlightened.

Remember this?
http://akebono.
standford.edu/yahoo
Remembering the things was just an added complication.

But for some time now, there's been less of a need to remember internet addresses. Some people are starting to think that there's no need to remember them at all.

Screen grab
The end of RealNames
One effort to make the web easier to remember has recently bitten the dust. British entrepreneur Keith Teare, founder of RealNames, announced that his technology would effectively cease to exist at the end of June, because of Microsoft's decision to stop supporting it in its web browser.

RealNames was an attempt to make the internet simpler, by removing the need for people to remember internet addresses. Instead of typing "www.big-company.com", they could simply type "Big company" into their web browser and the RealNames technology, working the background, would take them to the right place.

Although it wasn't big in the UK, the service was very popular in Asia, and other places that use non-Latin letters in their alphabets. Because RealNames supported characters from all languages, it had become an essential tool for hundreds of thousands of internet addresses in China, Japan, and dozens of other countries.

Mr/Ms Memory

But it's not just websites we have to keep track of these days.

Thanks to mobile phones and e-mail, we now have several different means of contacting each of our friends and loved ones - a home, mobile and office phone number, and an e-mail address or two, for each.

So it's a good job that technology is taking care of the task of remembering all the different contact details.

Bill Clinton
Now what came after the dot...
Mobile phones store all the numbers that call them, or that they dial. Adding names to a mobile phone address book has become as important a skill as knowing how to text people properly - and it's very quick and easy to do.

E-mail addresses are also easy to manage, because most modern e-mail software comes with a built-in address book.

Instead of having to remember someone's e-mail address, you only have to remember their name, or a nickname, and type that in the "To" box - your e-mail software will make sure that the message gets sent to the correct address.

When it comes to the web, the closest equivalent to these time-saving technologies is that old favourite, the browser bookmarks list.

Effective searches

Bookmarks (or Favourites, depending which software you use) go back to the earliest days of the web, when people soon realised that trying to remember long unwieldy URLs was not going to be easy.

It was especially useful then, as fewer domain names had been registered and even popular sites like Yahoo were located at addresses like http://akebono.standford.edu/yahoo, instead of the much easier to remember yahoo.com.

Bookmarks lists formed the basis of many early personal websites, where people would put their list of favourite sites online - as much for personal use, so they could access them from anywhere, as to show the world their personal interests.

Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman
Much money was spent on trying to get people to remember websites
The problem with a bookmarks list was keeping it up to date. If you organised your bookmarks into sub-folders, you had to remember which folder contained which site. Many people found themselves adding sites to their bookmarks list, then never visiting them again.

It was the arrival of much more effective search engines like Google (www.google.com) and Teoma (www.teoma.com) that led some people to consider abandoning bookmarks altogether - one web consultant, John Rhodes, says he has ditched his bookmarks and uses Google to find everything now.

Others have turned to using the own web pages or weblogs as a place for storing URLs they might want to return to. If they use more than one computer (at work and at home, for instance), this is a much more practical way of managing a list of sites.

Another alternative is online bookmark-storing services like Backflip, Hotlinks and Yahoo! Bookmarks.

So internet users with sieve-like memories can be assured that there are always options to help them remember their way around the net.


Any good tips for remembering e-mail addresses, websites, or phone numbers? Or have you come across any particularly useful software to help you?

Every Monday Dot.life looks at how technology has changed our lives, and more importantly how we would like to change our lives. Let us know your views, using the form below.

Your comments so far:

There are several different types of poor memory - I have a phenomenal memory for most dates, times and places, but I'm totally absent-minded - cups of tea go cold, I walk into rooms and forget why I have gone in there in the first place - technology doesn't help at all with this - I just had to develop a relaxed attitude to drinking cold tea, and not worry about standing gormlessly in a room wondering what I'm doing there.
Eddie, Scotland

Handy one for IE users and .com URLs. Instead of typing in www.awebsite.com just type in awebsite and then with the Ctrl key pressed hit enter. IE then adds the www before and the com after. Only works with .com URLs.
David O'Byrne, N Ireland

I split telephone numbers into pairs. Then I use Bingo Callers mnemonics, so the number 225716 would be (two little)Ducks-Heinz(varieties)-Sweet(sixteen). 01 - Kelly ('s eye)
10 - Tony ('s Den)
59 - Brighton (line)
David Paul Morgan, UK

If you find it difficult to remember where your bookmarks are and what they are for, consider starting a little list in Word or similar - not only can you even write as much or little as you like to jog your memory, most word processing programs such as Word etc will automatically create a clickable link in the document by recognising "http://" or "www" as they are typed in. Don't want to select from Word (or equivalent)? Just save the document in your "favourites" folder... piece of duff, no?
Sam Hodgson, England

I have forgotten why I am filling this in
John, UK

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