There’s been a couple of interesting comment piece over the last couple of days on the future of the web: Tim O’Reilly’s The War For The Web and Chris Messina’s The death of the URL, for example. Here’s something I’ve previously ranted about a bit, tangentially related to something Messina mentions, that I wanted to expand on.
Plenty of people have noted that short URLs are fragile, but I’m not sure how many have noticed how much they’re now used for tracking, too. As a random example, here’s a URL I came across on Tumblr, where there’s no reason for shortness, where it contains the giveaway that it’s come via an RSS feed:
Obviously everything after the ? isn’t needed, yet both RSS feeds and generated short URLs carry a bunch of unnecessary (but, for the site owner, desirable) tracking data. There’s even a service, awe.sm, which proudly crufts up TechCrunch links posted to Twitter, so that they’re trackable. Even beyond that, it turns out that, as with many sites (the Daily Mail is a particularly fun example) all that’s needed for the CMS to retrieve the page is the article ID (and a leading dash):
which then redirects to the actual article. In fact, you can put anything you want there:
Maybe the URL is already dying, from the inside. Or maybe I should stop caring about what is already something that most people never see. Anyway.