Over drinks with some media-world colleagues recently, I inadvertently revealed one of my idle pursuits: I think up URLs that I might, someday, want to do something with, and then I check to see if they're registered. Usually they are. If they aren't, I register them (for $5.99 at 1and1.com). My colleagues thought this was entertaining, perhaps because it came up so offhandedly: A particular phrase popped up in our conversation, and I said, "I think I own that URL."
Now, my generally useless hobby has been supercharged, because I just bookmarked instantdomainsearch.com, a site that allows you to check the availability of any URL "as fast as you can type." Literally. Type anything into its simple input field, and the split second you type the last letter in the word or phrase, this site tells you if its .com, .net or .org versions are already registered. It's several seconds faster than doing it any other way, which, weirdly, somehow makes a big difference -- and makes instantdomainsearch.com a nifty, real-time platform for brand-name brainstorming.