It’s time for clean, short URLs to rule the web. by Omar Yakubik

Think Beyond Social Links – Easy-to-use web addresses enhance content-sharing UX for site visitors and broaden site promotion

pointing to a better web – Publishers need some pointers to make their links more user-friendly! (image by pinnacleanimates for Freepik)

Uniform resource locators, or URLs, are the anonymous heroes of the increasingly vulnerable Internet that rely on proprietary services for communication. Instead of using a standard like Internet Relay Chat (IRC), we use Facebook Messenger or Snapchat. Rather than hosting a personal web site on GeoCities or AOL, we share our social media profiles or use a service like or to present our public image to the world. Google has ended support for the open-source Jabber/XMPP messaging service in favor of its own proprietary Hangouts service (Update: Whatever has been discontinued, as Google won’t,

One holdout of web standards is something most of us use every day: the humble shortened URL, or Web address, is what you use to access all of these services from your browser:, for example. It’s platform-agnostic, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon – but you wouldn’t know it the way software developers and UX designers have been emphasizing URLs in their products lately.

When Google introduced its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project for online articles, it initially completely hid URLs, making it impossible to share outside the browser without Google’s wrapper. Update: Google has fixed this, but in 2022, some content providers are forgetting to properly configure the feature, leaving users out in the cold and making sharing something nearly impossible.

Facebook has also removed the “copy link” feature from videos on its Web site, which makes it very difficult to point friends in the right direction if you try to message them (outside Facebook) about that weird thing. doing what you just saw.

Removing URLs from social media services can do a good job of keeping you inside the service. But if your friends don’t have that particular service, it hurts them because sharing that experience may never happen. And sharing experiences is, after all, what the Internet has made possible. Proprietary services should also promote themselves to people who don’t have their service (yet) – marketing goes beyond the data you can collect on your site, and the UX of content sharing is just the buttons you present. Users (but buttons do matter; I’ll come back to that later).

remove URL from [content-sharing] Might do a good job of keeping you inside the service. But if your friends don’t have that special service, it hurts them—because sharing that experience may never happen.

When URLs do exist, they’re often Frankenstein amalgamations of random characters that scare off any but the most experienced web users, who know you can shorten or shorten URLs by cutting off the question mark and everything after that. can. Sadly it’s common to see a URL like this on most content sites nowadays:§ion=politics&what_is_77xx

Notice how Facebook is repeated there three times (hp_fb_page, politics_fb, utm_medium=facebook, In addition to being a terrible source of visual pollution and a hindrance to content sharing, it is unnecessary, counterproductive, and has poor data hygiene/structure.

They are one of the worst offenders when it comes to Facebook. This is the actual URL (account name removed to conform to the medium’s content standards) generated from a click on an ad-promoted page:[tn]=hrr and ft[qid]=64616845603334789050&ft[mf_story_key]=-1941281437102799280&ft[is_sponsored]=1&ft[ei]=AI%40fed095b202a742cbf6fe1eb66634375d&ft[top_level_post_id]=646903462171929&ft[page_id]=616049621923980&ft[fbfeed_location]=1&ft[insertion_position]=81&ft[ordinal_position]=84.3A5&__MD__=1

And in 2022, I’ve faced even worse – one filled my phone’s screen. Such URLs can be popular because they obviously Help site owners extract data for the success of some marketing campaigns, but it’s really water down The quality of the data you receive from site referrals because people may copy and paste that URL on other platforms (mobile phone texting, for example) that have nothing to do with the platform specified in the URL code. This is absolutely bullshit for everyone involved. (Used properly, it can tell you if a link was copied elsewhere, but does it matter as much as where users actually came from?)

URLs like this… obviously Help site owners extract data for the success of specific marketing campaigns, but in reality it water down The data you get because people copy and paste that URL on other platforms

Sometime in the early 2010s, services like helped solve this problem with URL shorteners. They came about because of Twitter, which included URL lengths in the 140-character limit. Been looking at things for a while. But when Twitter developed its own URL shortener, the length of the URL didn’t matter. is still around, but online content companies like the Huffington Post and USA Today have stopped using the service, because, who cares how long the URL is now?

Well, as a social media user, I Meditation. Online time and attention are precious, and if you have a large chunk of text in the way you share the link, you’re probably less likely to share it. This creates a feedback loop where people tend to use more social sharing rather than link sharing, and then links are emphasized because designers these days use the data to meet only the most popular use cases. Since it became impossible to share link instead of Link, I have started looking for other sources to keep my social media posts clean and informative. Not every user makes such an effort, and most will probably skip sharing content altogether.

URL shorteners like allow you to use “vanity” short domains that allow users to identify your shortened URLs as belonging to your main brand. USA Today (, for example, uses “” for its Twitter links—avoiding the unnecessarily shorter and more elegant

If your site already has a shortened URL and is set up correctly from the start, you can avoid using a URL shortener altogether—bypassing the question of ID versus title, and using both . Some publishers have taken this better approach: first Quartz (formerly owned by Atlantic), then Time began putting an ID number before the title-based folder name (instead of the file name) that optimizes SEO. For example:

This way, users can just use the domain and ID to share the link (, without using a third-party URL shortener. The truncating method is also more familiar as more users are aware of the slash (/) instead of the question mark (?) from previous maths. It has the added bonus of removing the pesky .html (or .htm) at the end.

So let’s stop the madness. Pay a little attention to your URLs, and you may find that you can get more organic (non-referential) traffic than anyone else cares about (sorry, marketers) – there are HTTP referrers anyway, and you should be using them and promoting them as best practice rather than embedding data in URLs. if you essential Embed (but please don’t), keep it short and consider using a single ID code to encapsulate all the other variables you’re tracking behind the scenes. The Guardian does this with their shortened URLs (which are sadly inaccessible from their web pages).

Whatever your URLs look like, Make shortened URLs easier to find By providing a link-sharing option along with your social-sharing options. The icon may look something like this: (<>) – Often used for “embed”, the same symbol can let power users simply assemble the URL. Lovers of the open web, and people who already want the damn link so they can text it to their friend, will thank you, so they’re more likely to share their friends’ texts with you from a wall of text when they try to show them your site. Don’t kill the phone.

Oh, and one more thing: It’s 2017. If you are posting a link on social media, You no longer need to include “http://” or “https://”. Many browsers hide it anyway, and it’s the default when you don’t include the protocol (HTTP stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol” – “hypertext” is a term for interactive text with links, which people nowadays Therefore, it is not so “hyper”). People stopped using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) some time ago, probably in the 2000s when broadband became popular. You don’t need “www”. Either if your domain is set up properly. —and in 2022, I encountered a domain that forgot to configure even that option properly.

thanks all! Let’s make the Internet a better place.

Originally written in 2017, this article was taken down from the Internet by an erroneous spam filter and was put back in 2022 with minor edits.

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