The internet used to be all about URLs.
We would type them in to your browser address bar. We would maintain curated lists of URLs of interesting sites to visit. URLs were passed around and shared. Freely copied and pasted. We would navigate sites just by changing the URL path or playing with query parameters.
All of that changed with the proliferation of the mobile internet. Most modern day internet users don't even know what a URL is. They seldom interact with browsers, instead using apps that keep them in silos. If you told them to open a browser, they would stare at you in confusion. They pass things around using share functions and link shorteners, masking true URLs.
Some modern browsers even hide the full URL from their users, even on desktop. (Looking at you, Safari.) On mobile, URLs are difficult to use, to type out, to copy and to paste, and to read. Mobile browsers hide away the address bar when not in use. Mobile users know URLs only as weird arcane strings of text, highlighted in blue, that they have to click on.
URLs are the shell commands of the web. Hidden away from the masses, de-emphasized for being too arcane, restricted to "power users" only.
Scammers take advantage of how obscure URLs are. They trick the unsuspecting by using fake domains, hidden behind link shorteners. People are used to being told "just click this" without really understanding what URLs are, what domains are, so they are easily fooled. 2FA SMS messages remind us to make sure we are logging in to the "official site", but do modern users even still know to look at the address bar?
It used to be that if I shared the URL of an image, I could access it as long as the image was on the server. Now social media companies have image URLs that expire? I see some old chat logs with links to images on Facebook and if I click one I get "URL signature expired". But the original post with the image still exists on the site, so why doesn't my URL work anymore? Why can't the image URLs be actual resource locators and not temporary transient things?
Search made it easier to forget about URLs. People used to ask "where did you get that from?" and you'd answer by giving them a site's URL. These days they just tell you to Google "[site name]" or something.
People used to have their own sites, on the open web. They'd say "Oh, you can check out my site at [mydomain.com]" or "Check out this cool blog at https://roytang.net !", now they're like "Just search for "[my page name]" on Facebook" or "I'm @handle on Tiktok" or whatever.
People keep tons of open tabs just to use the browser as a todo list. You can just save the URLs somewhere and save your memory! Browsers even have a feature for this!
Had this post in my drafts for a while. It reads mostly as an old-timey "old man shakes fist at clouds" type of rant. I understand (not necessarily approve) of) why the modern web is the way it is and some of it is good and some of these are exaggerated for effect, but the nostalgia for the old ways is real.