One of the interesting things is that I've been around to see the entire progression of this over time.
1) The .com address. First it was just the really techie companies that had these, then everyone realized how easy it was. You got your name, stuck a www. before it and a .com after it, and you're set.
2) The world got smarter. People started to realize, "Hey, if I don't know the address of a company, I can just put its name with a www. before and a .com after, and that's probably it!" Well, that worked once in a while, until the .com namespace became so polluted that new companies had no choice but to call themselves www.mycompanynamewasalreadytakensowepickedsomethingelse.com.
3) The .notcom addresses. People found that if their .com address was taken, they could just get the .org, .net, .us address, or whatever. Easy! Or not... they publicize their address as mycompany.org and everyone punches in mycompany.com instead going to their evil competitor (or more likely some completely unrelated company with a similar name).
4) The world got smarter. They realized the world isn't all .com, and they adapted. But what do companies do then? They make sure to register .com, .org, .net, .everything so that whatever ending we put on the name will take us to their website. Genius. Now all the common root domain namespaces are polluted.
5) Google. Forget about addresses, what we need is a phone book. Aha! Hello, Google. Now we can punch in the company's name, and it'll TELL US what the address is. Brilliant. Except that I really don't want all of these other web sites that come up. Or do I?
6) The AOL Keyword. Or the
7) The world got smarter. Now not only can they advertise their .com address. They can advertise complex addresses that include all kinds of dots and slashes. helpfulname.mycompany.com/somethingelse. The techies love this. We can get to exactly what we want to get to without having to wade through pages of navigation.
Which brings me to a side rant. The slash (or is it a backslash?). You no doubt hear this on the radio all the time. Some announcer is reading off a web address, and says "Visit mywebsite dot com, backslash idiot, for more details." Certainly backslash sounds really big and important... I heard some IT guy at work using it last week... all the cool kids say it. Well folks, I hate to tell you, but THERE ARE NO BACKSLASHES IN A WEB ADDRESS! They are ALL, ALWAYS, WITHOUT-FAIL, simple old slashes. Something slash something. End rant.
The nice thing about the whole evolution of it is that it's entirely backwards compatible. You can always go the hard way and keep clicking until you find something you want, or just take shortcuts along the way.
The evolution will continue. Next comes direct advertising of IP addresses... no, not IPv4, but IPv6 addresses. Just like a 32-digit telephone number, with 16-digits on your phone dial. Piece of cake, right? Well, maybe we'll just continue to use Google instead.