Saturday, October 16, 2010

Change Happens (if it can)

As the result of an e-mail exchange with Neel Smith, one of the designers of the Canonical Text Service Protocol, I've come up with the following formulation:
If a character in a URL can change, it will.
I'm not the only person to think this but I just wanted to get that thought out in simple, direct language.

But what do I mean? Take Worldcat URLs such as That "www." is annoying and should not be part of the URL that Worldcat presents as its permanent identifier for the book. At some point in the future, somebody there will realize this and remove those unnecessary characters. But Now you're talking! And look, it already works.

It's true that the "oclc" could be shortened so maybe I need to qualify the formulation, but I'm not going to for the following reason. Changing those characters would risk collision with other identifying schemes that Worldcat supports such as . The 'www.' is unstable because it can be removed without breaking anything.

The simple formulation stands: If a character in a URL can change, it will.

The implication is, "be aggressive about removing all unnecessary characters from your URLs." The following is a horror-show:
It just looks unstable. Leading me to another formulation:
If a URL looks unstable, it is.

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