Quick Hit: Domains go MIA

Error: server not foundI used to think that it was above and beyond. I'm beginning to think of it as table stakes for any tech company. What's that? Multiple domain linking and forwarding (yes, that's the technical term. Ok, you caught me, no it's not).

I've praised Microsoft in the past for this, and I'll mention it again. If I want to find a product on Microsoft's website, there are a intuitive few ways I'd try:

  1. Go to their website and search. This is a bit slow - you load the home page, then wait for search, the click a search result.
  2. Search on Google. This is a bit faster, because Google is my homepage so I save 1 page view and manually typing "microsoft.com" (although I am a relatively fast typist)
  3. Or, try to get lucky. Type: "microsoft.com/office"

If you want PowerPoint, try: microsoft.com/powerpoint. What happens? You get the PowerPoint page, just like you'd expect. Except the PowerPoint page is "office" this and "en-us" that... but I just typed what made sense to me. Looking for the little-used Microsoft Money? microsoft.com/money. Vista? microsoft.com/vista. Want the programming tools ("Visual Studio")? Type: micrsoft.com/visualstudio and you're looking at the msdn2.blahblah/vstudio/blah.aspxmxq page for Visual Studio. You get the point. But Google on the other handle - the bastions of search excellence, the providers of all things related on the web... they don't. There are 2 things I look for regularly: Google My Library (which is a place where you can review books that you've read). google.com/mylibrary? nothing. google.com/library? nope: this is a page about Google Books. Wait, I can now see that "library" is part of "books" so books.google.com? That takes you to a different books page. Now there is a "My Library" link at the top. What URL do you get when you click it? I won't type it for fear of bringing down Google's bandwidth (it's that long). To be fair, a Google search pulls it fast - but again, that's slower than the Alt+D (to get to the address bar) plus the milliseconds for the 15-odd characters. (You're right: I didn't link to Google Library: go find it yourself, clearly Google isn't interested in making it easy for you, so why should I?) And this isn't the only place. I wanted to find out about Open Social (their social networking API) tonight so I tried: google.com/opensocial. Nilch. google.com/social and social.google.com and opensocial.google.com all return dead. The last 2 you get the image above: you don't even get redirected to a Google search (which would probably turn up the result I wanted). To be fair, few are the people who might try what I did. But it makes me happy when it works and, as a custom, it builds trust in a way that is more effective than stacks of ads. So, what does this all mean? Like I said, I am beginning to see domain fancy-footwork as table stakes. I'm going to go think about a few more subdomains at work that people might try. I'm also going to configure the custom error pages so they get a pleasant message instead of "Server not found."

Saturday, February 09, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: google, microsoft, domains, errormessages

series: Quick Hits (38 other posts in this series)