URL Shorteners and the Linkrot Apocalypse

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First of all I’d like to thank you all for your support on the Twitter Friendly Links plugin for WordPress. It started out as a fairly simple URL shortener tool. Now it’s got loads of new options and some compatibility fixes. Keep the suggestions coming :)

Today I came across a bunch of articles about link relations, the way Google and other search engines treat them, and the way a variety of scripts, plugins, tools, etc. work with them. It seems that there isn’t a strong standard yet (perhaps everybody’s waiting for W3C) so most clients now support different styles.

I’m talking about the shortlink, short_url, short-url and other relations in HTML and HTTP responses. In the Twitter Friendly Links plugin I went with the shortlink specification as stated here although there’s a competing alternative which looks alike. Anyway, I wrote about extending the plugin and creating a little API that could transform long permalinks to short ones within the blog. It seems that there’s no need for that. If Twitter could access the page we link to, look out for the shortlink in the head section (or perhaps the HTTP response) then return THAT short link instead of the old-fashion bit.ly trimmed one, that’d be great, right?

There’s also one called rev=canonical, which pretty much does the same as a link rel=shortlink. It’s being used on many sites right now, though I’m not sure that Google reads that at all. Webmasters confuse this with the rel=canonical which on the other hand got Google support in February this year. The idea behind rev=canonical is to specify the reversed canonical, i.e. (perhaps) a shorter link to the same page, but it came up with a bunch of security issues for cross-domain linking (like when specifying a short link generated via TinyURL). Also, the rev attribute is gonna be gone in HTML5, but until then we’re free to use it, so that’s why I included this option in the lates (0.3.4) release of Twitter Friendly Links.

If you’re interested in linking relations, you might want to read:

Note, that these are just thoughts, standards yet to come :) We DO have to get rid of those TinyURL ugly links though somehow. Good luck!

P.S. Twitter Friendly Links is now compatible with AskApache Google 404.

About the author

Konstantin Kovshenin

WordPress Core Contributor, ex-Automattician, public speaker and consultant, enjoying life in Moscow. I blog about tech, WordPress and DevOps.