Thursday, June 12, 2008

DigitURL gets a sister website

I'm pleased to announce the launch of my new website, Firxt is a search portal designed for mobile devices and supports OpenSearch and Sherlock search engine description plugins.

My awareness of a need for a service like Firxt arose from my work on DigitURL. The world of mobile search is currently tightly protected by phone companies and browser producers in restrictive 'walled gardens'. The DigitURL OpenSearch plugin provides an excellent access point to DigitURL, but the plugins had only been supported by desktop browsers. Firxt allows easy access to DigitURL, Google and any number of other search services from web-enabled mobile phones.

Check it out!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Media Round-Up

Developments on DigitURL have been a little slowed as I've just taken 2 weeks for an adventure holiday in Samoa (of all places). One relevant experience I had was in recharging SIM cards for pre-paid credit; in Samoa there is no need to navigate through a voice menu system (as we have in Australia), you just type into your phone [company phone number]#[docket number] and call and you're recharged! The possibilities are endless!

Now that I'm back, work has re-commenced and some users may notice the new 'Pro-tips' feature on DigitURL. These are designed to improve usability as they highlight more memorable 'Short DigitURL' alternatives when a user is employing newly-generated (random sequence) DigitURLs.

Here is a selection of coverage DigitURL has attracted on the web in recent times:

Orient Expression blog
Vermot-Gauchy (French)
ITS News (Russian)
Num te ponhas (Portuguese)
Meiobit (Portuguese)
Ehrensenf (German)
Discussion about DigitURL uses in education:
Cell Phones in Learning
Ongoing (I hope) commentary on numeric web addresses and DigitURL:

Thanks to all authors!


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

DigitURL vs. 2D barcodes

I'm back! Firstly, I'd like to say 'thank you' to the many people (worldwide) who have shown interest and enthusiasm for DigitURL in these initial few months. It has been reaffirming for me in my belief that the DigitURL concept is valid and could be a success. It will also encourage me to pursue more work on the site; I have many more features in mind! You are DigitURL 'early adopters', and that's special!

Now, onto the main topic of this post: 2D barcodes. Amongst other things, 2D barcodes can be used to facilitate web access on mobile phones. They make it much easier to enter URL information. You photograph the symbol with your phone's camera, a program extracts the code from the image, decodes it to a URL, which is then sent to your phone's browser. It's been huge in Japan for a few years, but it's yet to catch on elsewhere, for a variety of reasons. There's no doubt it's a cool idea, and it's dripping with tech geek goodness.

DigitURL is also a facilitator of web access on mobile phones. As with 2D barcodes, URL entry is simplified, but the phone keypad buttons are used as the data source rather than the phone's camera. The comparison of DigitURL and 2D barcodes as mobile web access facilitators is obvious, and I believe each has strong points. Various types of comparisons may be made (especially with regards to usability), and I have summarised a couple in a table:

A major advantage of DigitURLs is that they are very easily communicated. Unlike 2D barcodes, they can be communicated verbally, as well as using handwriting, typing and via texting. DigitURLs can also be memorised, and memorisation is particularly easy for several thousand of the most popular websites, which are accessible by pressing the keypad letters corresponding to the websites' names. 2D barcodes require the user to have the symbol physically placed in front of them; if it's not present, it can't be used. Communication typically requires transmission of a graphics file or the physical movement of computer-generated printed matter, e.g. a magazine.

Another advantage of DigitURLs is that they can be readily used on desktop computers. This is quite difficult to achieve with 2D barcodes.

Both types of code suffer from a lack of meaning to human readers. Even URLs often suffer from this. The codes of themselves don't give clues as to what they link to.

Major advantages of 2D barcodes are the great extent to which they simplify URL data entry to the phone, their mode of action (which can seem magical), and the novel and 'cool' appearance of the codes.

I believe the different codes each have roles to play and can complement each other. That's why I've just added DigitURL/2D barcode 'stickers' to the website. For any DigitURL result, you can get its sticker by clicking on its 'Sticker' link. The images can be printed for use in the 'real world', or hotlinked from other websites.
Each DigitURL/2D barcode sticker contains:
  1. A 2D barcode that encodes the original website URL.
  2. A DigitURL you can use to access the site.
  3. The website 'name' (only if the DigitURL numbers correspond, i.e. for popular sites).
  4. The original website URL.
Here is an example:

Let me know what you think!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

DigitURL launches!

Welcome! I'm proud to announce the launch of my new website,

DigitURL is a service for improving the accessibility of websites to mobile phone users. Instead of requiring keying-in of long-and-complicated URLs on numeric keypads, websites can be accessed using numeric addresses (DigitURLs).

As I see it, DigitURL is an evolution and combination of multiple technologies. As a URL redirection utility, it is similar to TinyURL. As a means for linking together real- and virtual-world objects, it has some usability similarities to the nascent 2-D barcode URL schemes, Semacode and QR Code. It effectively represents a new naming scheme for the World Wide Web, one that is geared towards usability 'out in the field'. Currently, most aspects of the internet are geared towards use on desktop PC's. However, internet-enabled mobile phones are starting to come into wide use, demanding more acceptable presentations of the internet.

A unique aspect of DigitURL is the Java client software for mobile phones. This forms the interface between the phone and the web, accepting numeric DigitURL address input. In case a user has not installed this application, a 'web-based' version is readily accessible at This may be bookmarked on phones for future use.

It's been a long road for me so far on this project, but the excitement is just beginning. Stay tuned to this blog for more news.

You can help in the success of DigitURL by:
  • Using it.
  • Posting DigitURLs in the real world (for others to use).
  • Installing the Java software on your phone.
  • Discussing it with your friends and on the web.
  • Sending me your thoughts, and feedback on your experience.
Happy mobile webbing!

Web addresses for mobile phones