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According to Brent, the author of NetNewsWire:
the more expensive the CMS, the crappier the URLs.

John Udell gives a couple of examples to support this theory.

So how does this reflect on my own newssystem which I'm currently converting to a blogging system (just what the world needs, right?, right?)?

At the moment permanent links (aka permalinks) look like this:

This means there is a PHP script which displays the entry belonging to the id named in the url.
This data is in a MySQL database, and we use PHP to extract it and dynamically create a page. Lovely system but the url's look ugly.
Worse still, they don't convey much meaning and a spider like Google (which provides about 90% of my search engine referrals) doesn't quite know what to do about them, so it just ignores them. Now systems like Blogger create html files which google knows and deals with properly.

Now there could be a couple of solutions to this problem:
  1. I could generate HTML documents and put them on the server, giving each an unambigious name
  2. I could use Apache's mod_rewrite to rewrite the urls to a more pleasing format

  3. I could ignore the problem
  4. I could devise a system whereby a url would become simpler and yet convey more meaning

Objections against these solutions (numbers correspond to the 'solution' above):
  1. I would force my users to give certain areas of their website write-access to the script, a potential security risk
  2. Most users won't have access to do this, besides mod_rewrite is HARD
  3. A good one, wait for Google et al to catch up, problem is will this ever happen?
  4. I did just this, there's a problem though, but it might not be really terrible and even be a bonus

First, here is what a permanent link could look like in my new system: (don't try it, the system isn't in place yet).
It is obvious that ?urlsAreTitlesToo conveys much more meaning than ?action=list&id=57.
What the system does in fact is perform a search for ALL entries that have "urlsAreTitlesToo" as the title. This means that if we have two entries called "urlsAreTitlesToo" we will get two results and the script will display both.
This is a bonus because if a visitor is interested in the topic, as conveyed by the title, she'll probably be interested enough to read both articles.
This is also a problem because the page can still change and thus could confuse a search engine or human reader.

It appears that I may not have solved the problem entirely, but the script has a cool new feature anyway. Now all I need to do is give the permalink choice to the person who installs the script and this should be trivial.

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