Cool URIs don’t change…

Tim Berners Lee wrote this essay years ago (1998 in fact), and it’s a good one. In short, the message is this:

… many, many things can change and your URIs can and should stay the same. They only can if you think about how you design them.

Why bring it up now? I got an email from Jens Anders Bakke a couple weeks ago, in it he asked what “… we regular users can do about …” the fact that Macromedia Forums was recently moved (from http://webforums.macromedia.com/ to http://www.macromedia.com/support/forums/). He brought up the fact that alot of people link to the forums when discussing a bug or a problem and because of the move, none of those links that matter (ie: the links that actually point to something besides the forums homepage) work (I’ve done it myself in multiple places). In fact, Google can find about 7,400 links to webforums.macromedia.com. Some of those don’t work anymore. It’s a small thing, but seriously, how hard would it have been to add a couple lines of mod_write kung foo to your Apache conf?

4 thoughts on “Cool URIs don’t change…”

  1. mod_rewrite isn’t the easiest tool in the world to use and there hasn’t been enough good documentation out there.

    Would also be nice to have a web server plug-in that would record the names of all unique URI’s that were requested over a time period … although a decent log scanner might do the trick. Better “visual rewriting wizards” would help as well.

    I think the real culprit is not making the URI / URL part of the original application specification
    (and that URL rewriting is also a newer concept to most).

    For example … if http://whatsup.com/news.cfm?id=1234

    had been spec’d as

    http://whatsup.com/news/1234.html with a URL rewriter then you’d be able to change the backend but still stick to the original spec.

    ( plus clients don’t parse server-side code! … SERVERS DO )

    It probably wouldn’t be hard to make a business case that rewriting is worth the associated expense … if not for the convenience of one’s readership then at least for the raw page ranking factor.

  2. Wouldn’t need mod_rewrite. The redirects could easily be done in ColdFusion which the forums are written in or using a redirect servlet like what MM already uses for their /go/ links. What’s funny is when Macromedia bought Allaire all the old Allaire forum links still worked but now that MM migrated to a J2EE installation the links don’t? Odd.

  3. You’re right Sam, you could use a servlet.. even better you could use a servlet Filter, but I’d maintain that using mod_rewrite consumes less resources in Apache than a servlet would on CFMX and would take less time to setup and write. This isn’t a problem for Macromedia’s application developers, it’s a sys admin issue, IMHO.

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