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Programming The Internet IT Technology

Can rev="canonical" Replace URL-Shortening Services? 354

Chris Shiflett writes "There's a new proposal ('URL shortening that doesn't hurt the Internet') floating around for using rev="canonical" to help put a stop to the URL-shortening madness. In order to avoid the great linkrot apocalypse, we can opt to specify short URLs for our own pages, so that compliant services (adoption is still low, because the idea is pretty fresh) will use our short URLs instead of TinyURL.com (or some other third-party alternative) replacements."
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Can rev="canonical" Replace URL-Shortening Services?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:43PM (#27550145)

    I read the first link, sounds like complete and total batshit paranoia. I can't be alone in this opinion. Really, tinyurl has been around the entire 11+ years I've been on the internet, and somehow the internet's survived just fine.

    tag:slownewsday anyone?

  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:47PM (#27550169)

    I didn't understand a single word of the submission, and I used to teach Web design. Is it too much to ask submitters to define terms they use?

  • by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:47PM (#27550173) Homepage Journal

    what exactly is the point in URL shortening ?

    the only argument I can see is publications and twitter

    publications - there is no way that I am going to be able to example.com/typeskjd583 better than a URL this has been tried and frankly failed

    twitter char limit - well actually twitter should solve this by offering their own service and key into what people are looking at thus having that knowledge inside twitter and being able to monitize it...

    apart from those two reasons (which are false for I belive the reasons above) what other reasons are there ?

    URL's are good because they are Uniform....


    John Jones

  • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:01PM (#27550265)

    Yes, TinyURL hasn't killed anyone. BUT... any attempt to fix this is entirely missing the point anyway. From the article:

    I happen to think this URL is beautiful. :-) Unfortunately, it is sure to get mangled into some garbage URL if you try to talk about it on Twitter, because it's not very short. I really hate when that happens. What can I do?

    If rev="canonical" gains momentum...

    If they fix twitter to support links with proper labels or tag contents --- Oh, I don't know, like HTML has supported from the very beginning --- then there wouldn't be a problem.

    Don't work around the bugs, fix the bugs. Links are designed for machines, the higher-level marked up text is for people.

  • by digitalme2 ( 965595 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:23PM (#27550407)

    Instead of using a plethora of different URL shortening services, any of which might disappear at some point in the future, Twitter should implement its own URL shortening service (using, say, the domain http://tw.it/ [tw.it] or similar) and thereby shorten any URL's that Twitter users post. Assuming the Twitter team can manage this (given their track record with things like message queues, however...) then there would be no possibility of linkrot.

    Unless you're using shortened URL's somewhere besides Twitter, of course. But why on Earth would you do that?

  • by Kupo ( 573763 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:24PM (#27550409)

    There's all this talk of URL shortening services - whether third-party, or in-house implementation.

    The question here is this: Why are the URLs so long to begin with?

    Why does it have to be:

    A full title in the URL is, IMHO, a very inefficient idea. The excuses I've heard are:

    Search Engine Optimizations (better performance when keywords are in the URL)
    Okay, I can't argue that some search engines do stuff like that. But shouldn't the TITLE or META tags have more bearing on this than how ridiculously long the URL is?

    "The URL has meaning, so you know what you're clicking", Context, etc.
    I suppose that when I see a URL like
    as opposed to something like
    I would have a slightly better idea of the article's content before clicking on it. But then again, I can't really say that I've decided against clicking on a link just because of the link URL. I would, instead, decide whether I'd want to visit the link by its link text/description.

    So <a href="http://example.org/blog/526">blog on link shortening</a> would still have the same effect on me as a long URL IMO. If it were bookmarked, the same rules would apply.

    Hell, if I were handed an obfuscated shortened URL without context, I'd know even less of what I was getting myself into.

    I think the proper solution is to just stop making ridiculously long URLs to begin with, so we don't have to rely on obfuscation/hashing/shortening to accommodate services that have character limit restrictions. And we'd save bandwidth too [slashdot.org], apparently. Win-win?

  • by Knowbuddy ( 21314 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:27PM (#27550427) Homepage Journal

    Here's the thing: it's not just the path that is the problem, it's also the domain name. You can shorten "/blog/2009/apr/save-the-internet-with-rev-canonical" to "/abc123", but if your domain name is something plus-sized like "rickosborne.org" or worse ... how much have you really gained?

    It's a little helpful, but not really. What you've done is remove the little bit of semantic meaning from the link, all in the name of being able to ego surf easier. Huzzah.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:28PM (#27550435)

    I'd also like to propose rel="evil" (for shock URLs and Microsoft) rel="nsfw" and rel="rickroll".

  • by he-sk ( 103163 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:28PM (#27550437)

    LOL! Only in America, the free market bastion of the world, do you have to pay for incoming texts.

  • by athlon02 ( 201713 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:37PM (#27550485)

    All this short URL stuff sounds like some phishing scam if you ask me. Short cryptic URLs obviously exist to make me transpose a couple of letters or numbers and end up at some fake bank site. No, give me large detailed URLs so I can see those dead giveaways like pid=poor_sucker&sid=steal_credit_card_info !

    Short URLs indeed... no thank you Nigerian scammers... I won't be transferring any large sums today!

    On a serious note, why is this news exactly?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:48PM (#27550555)

    You realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of these services, don't you? It's a really obvious way of putting yourself in the path of a lot of traffic, which you can hopefully monetize at some point, so everybody's doing it. Most of these services you've never even heard about, and those are not going to last. All links through these services are dead when the respective server's taken offline. Other short URL service operators may at some point sell their soul to advertisers and start framing the link targets with ads. Then all links turn into ad-ware.

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <jurily@gmail.COLAcom minus caffeine> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:50PM (#27550559)

    If they fix twitter to support links with proper labels or tag contents --- Oh, I don't know, like HTML has supported from the very beginning --- then there wouldn't be a problem.

    So you're proposing we don't fix the entire internet so a pointless little social service doesn't have to bugfix? Blasphemy!

  • by adaviel ( 1189751 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:13PM (#27550675) Homepage
    Or in print. Most people can manage xkcd.com/84 without writing it down.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:15PM (#27550687)
  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:19PM (#27550713) Journal

    Yes, it looks hideously long. It also works fine, it's clickable, I really don't get the big deal.

  • DNS Overload ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tensor ( 102132 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:25PM (#27550739)
    Surely the author of that rant knows about dns cache ... your pc will only consult the NS for tinyurl, etc once per day -if at all- depending on how many of those you click on.

    And if you click on them rarely the delay would be neglible, cos you only use them rarely ...

    Plus this, interesting as it may be, still does not solve how to get a long url into a Tweet... it does not matter if Twitter can go look up the small URL on its own ... you still would have the 140 char limit.
  • Re:Arbitrary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:46PM (#27550887) Journal

    And even 140 bytes is not the limit, since you can use multipart SMS to send longer messages transparently. Though I suppose that might be undesirable on US carriers that double-dip by charging to receive as well as to send.

  • Reasonable URLs ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by redelm ( 54142 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @06:17PM (#27551065) Homepage
    While I understand linkrot is a danger, the cure isn't some new layer of indirection but fundamentally more permanent archive structure. That really is entirely the site's choice and responsibility.

    Why do so many URLs look like RDBMs queries? Has someone been sold a bill-of-goods?

    As for shorter URLs, they become much shorter minus the DB cruft. And then all it takes is a modicum of logic to form some durable system.

    Some people cannot avoid flavor-of-the-month. Those people should not be making decisions with any sort of permanence or continuity.

  • i blame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ionix5891 ( 1228718 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @06:42PM (#27551217)


  • Re:A Few Responses (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cerium ( 948827 ) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @07:24PM (#27551435) Homepage

    It's a very mildly useful feature, but it's unnecessary bloat.

    First and foremost: It's extra strain on (my) servers. Let's say this becomes an accepted standard and we start having every blogging/forum/comment system doing these lookups to find a smaller url. This means that any time a document on one of my servers is linked to, there's going to be at least one request sent for it so your system can check if a shorter url has been specified. So, now I'm serving up extra data for a feature I won't likely use, and your server has to parse the page to find the data it's looking for. Better hope my server is sending the proper headers and data...

    Then we have the issue of bad urls in the link tag. We'll have the same problem that the current solution has, except I've still got the document telling you that the bad short url is good. Should your system assume my document is wrong and permanently ignore the short url? Should it check again later? Or should it even check the referenced url at all? What if I specify a completely different site/document? Malware sites could hide in plain sight when victims try to link to the offending page on some support forum, only to have the url turned into "http://www.google.com/search?q=rainbows" for everyone else.

    In any event, I really don't see what the real need for this new "feature" is. The only argument I've seen for this is it allows content owners to provide a short url because their excessively descriptive long urls are exactly that: too goddamn long. Look, if you think your urls are too hard or too long for people to remember, then shorten them up. If you'd rather setup some goofy aliasing system, then do it. Why do you need some "standard" to do so? What's wrong with putting "LINK TO THIS ARTICLE: http://www.mydomain.com/article [mydomain.com]" on the page itself? Users don't get any advantages out of automating the url shortening process, and sites like twitter which require small urls are very very special cases. So... why bother?

    Oh, and for what it's worth: It's pretty much common sense that the services like tinyurl aren't meant to permanently link to a site. Anyone who thinks otherwise is probably illiterate.

  • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @08:03PM (#27551669) Journal


    Really, I have no idea what the point is. Here's a TFA URL:

    http://joshua.schachter.org/2009/04/on-url-shorteners.html [schachter.org]

    Here's what yours might look like:

    http://joshua.schachter.org/89dfaf0834055017af95b8cbb8b440819c3db49a [schachter.org]

    Congratulations, it's longer. What's the gain?

  • Fish and the egg (Score:1, Insightful)

    by SlashRSlashN ( 1036626 ) on Monday April 13, 2009 @01:07AM (#27553379)

    Or, perhaps the simplest solution: talk Twitter into letting you use more than 140 chars.

  • Re:A Few Responses (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 13, 2009 @02:19AM (#27553621)

    How about we all just fucking ignore Twitter and maybe people will stop going on about it.

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.