URL Obfuscation

All your favorite sites are starting to do it. Where once you could quickly mouse-over any Dave’s link to determine which Dave’s insightful comment you were appreciating, you are now left with the current site’s url followed by a meaningless query string.

URL obfuscation by using redirects (a new feature of Movable Type 2.6.6) was conceived to discourage those wretched leeches who post in hopes of inflating their PageRank. It is a solution to a problem. But that solution detracts from the usability of our sites.

There are a lot of Dans, Dougs, and Todds out there but not all of them have the experience and informed opinions of the person that first comes to mind when reading that familiar name. This obfuscation takes away any established credibility. And it works both ways. It’s harder to develop a trust with just a meaningless query string.

Help loyal readers out. When you upgrade to 2.6.6 just say no to URL obfuscation.

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Author
Shaun Inman
Posted
April 16th, 2004 at 7:28 am
Categories
Movable Type
Comments
015 (Now closed)

015 Comments

001

A fellow argentinean weblogger, Singing Banzo, posted a short while ago a small trick that he implemented to go around this and get the URL address of the commentators in the tooltip box when you hover over the nick. You can find it here (it’s in spanish, but the code is there in a pretty understandable shape). If anyone is interested in a full translation, please let me know and I would be happy to help.

And, as a side off-topic note, thanks for a wonderful blog, Shaun.

Author
Amor Entintado
Posted
Apr 16th, 2004 4:52 am
002

I didn’t know there was a way of stopping this - until now! Thanks Shaun - I agree completely, I’m always having to check peoples’s URLs. Cheers!

Author
Jon Hicks
Posted
Apr 16th, 2004 5:05 am
003

Ah! Good, thanks for the plugin link. This is exactly the reason why I’m still on MT 2.64 at the moment.

Author
Dave S.
Posted
Apr 16th, 2004 6:17 am
004

I said no to this before you even told me to! This was one of my pet peeves when I first started using Movable Type. At the time, I didn’t know of such a plugin, so I used a bit of PHP code in my templates..

<? if (!\"<$MTCommentURL$>\" == \"\") { ?><a href=\"<$MTCommentURL$>\" target=\"_blank\"><$MTCommentAuthor$></a><? } else { ?><$MTCommentAuthor$><? } ?>

This does require that your files are PHP, but I hope this helps some people.

Author
Michael Simmons
Posted
Apr 16th, 2004 6:22 am
005

I get more frustrated fighting the redirect with my back button when I’m done than with not seeing the actual url, but now you mention it, it is something I instinctively look for.

Author
Jamie
Posted
Apr 16th, 2004 9:09 am
006

I agree, I’ve found countless new sites from reading comments and linking to the poster’s site. Since this change in the MT upgrade it’s been a pain.

Author
Paul
Posted
Apr 16th, 2004 10:28 am
007

Shaun, I really agree with you on this one. It’s unfortunate that it is done due to glory hounds, but still.. who cares. I can’t stand not being able to see where the page is going before click.

Author
Nigel
Posted
Apr 16th, 2004 10:46 pm
008

man, I get so much spam on my blog, and it gets me so pissed off. I don’t really want generic viagra… I want the real shit. It takes a long time to rebuild MT when you have 266 entries to do… gah!

I just want TypeKey to come out already.

Author
Danny Cohen
Posted
Apr 17th, 2004 1:28 pm
009

I couldn’t agree with you more on this one. While I suppose people posting simply in hopes of increasing their PR could be a problem, I’d say it’s even more of a problem to decrease the usability of your site by obfuscating the URLs. Glad there’s a way around it, and I hope most MT users will do so…

Author
Ryan Brill
Posted
Apr 21st, 2004 5:29 am
010

I’m a little late to the table on this one, but wanna know how I think it should be work? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway: I think the redirect should still be in place, but only for those who don’t enter a URL — I assume it’ll save their email from being harvested by spammers. Kind of like what Simon does with his contact page.

That said, however, the obfuscation still remains.

Author
Cameron Moll
Posted
Apr 27th, 2004 10:50 am
011

Regarding Michael’s post about the php hack, I’m testing the MT3 beta on my site right now and they’ve added in <MTIfNotEmpty field=”“> tags which make that possible without nasty php calls ;] It’s actually really nice, and lets you use the same template to display different data (in archives, for instance).

Author
eric
Posted
Apr 27th, 2004 1:23 pm
012

I came to this article by way of Dave’s blog in IE to see it for myself.

Author
Melissa
Posted
May 4th, 2004 8:26 am
013

Communication breakdown. The URL obfuscation I’m referring to is when a website uses a local redirect that refers to a meaningless id representing the url instead of the actual url to link to someone else’s site.

Compare: http://your.com/mt-comments.cgi?__mode=red&id=6631

To: http://www.shauninman.com/

There is no way to determine that the first link takes you to the second example—regardless of which browser you’re using.

Author
Shaun Inman
Posted
May 4th, 2004 8:40 am
014

Why not keep the obfuscated URL, but put the “real” URL in a Title attribute (thus giving a “tooltip” of the real URL?)

I’d imagine even if it would contribute to pagerank scores (eg. title=”somespamdomain.com”,) it wouldn’t be as valued as the HREF itself pointing there.

Author
Scott
Posted
May 5th, 2004 6:19 am
015

Tom Werner has done just that Scott with his MT plugin, URLTitles. (Snagged the link from SimpleBits’ QuickBits.)

Author
Shaun Inman
Posted
May 19th, 2004 9:00 am