Cool URLs Don’t Die

If you've been reading our newsletter (and you should be reading our newsletter) you will have seen that I've been building some printers.

This is actually the resurrection of a project I began in 2012 with the help of some colleagues, and while I've been updating it, it's been fun to explore some of the original posts and tweets about the project. Quite a few people made their own printer to connect to the open-source architecture, and it was great to read about their experiences.

... except now, 11 years later, pretty much all of those links are dead. Personal blogs are either gone, or redirect en masse to some new domain. Company blogs share a similar fate: with a few notable exceptions, blogs don't survive company website redesigns, let alone when the company is bought or ceases trading. Even links on esteemed and ongoing tech blogs like Wired haven't survived, despite the content still being available if you search hard enough.

And you know what? That's not cool. Cool URLs don't change. And Cool URLs shouldn't die either. URLs that die are not good enough.

Maybe it's fine for some content to disappear. For social media, maybe that's even beneficial. But if you're going to spend days writing a blog post, polishing it, editing it, contributing it into the web of public discourse, why would we then so casually make it unfindable only a few years later?

Yes, I realise this is easier said than done. But the first piece of advice from that W3 style page is this:

Do you really feel that the old URIs cannot be kept running? If so, you chose them very badly. Think of your new ones so that you will be able to keep then running after the next redesign.

And so, when we are building things and writing stuff that feels important to us -- even personal blogs -- let's give the URLs a bit of thought, such that whenever we do need to change the way things work in the background, migrating from some platform to another and so on, so that we can make all those original URLs still work.

If we want people to link to us, let's do them the courtesy of committing to keeping those URLs working even as our focus moves elsewhere. Let's be cool. 🆒 😎 🔗