It’s Time to Rethink the Permalink
The permalink – nothing could be more core to the concept of blogging, and indeed, content management. In it’s early inception, it was the one link to rule all others. The problem is that with the advent of microblogging systems like Twitter, the permalink has been devalued and now faces possible extinction.
A permalink, or permanent link, is a URL that points to a specific blog or forum entry after it has passed from the front page to the archives. Because a permalink remains unchanged indefinitely, it is less susceptible to link rot. Most modern weblogging and content-syndication software systems support such links. Other types of websites use the term permanent links, but the term permalink is most common within the blogosphere. Permalink is a portmanteau word made from permanent link. Permalinks are often simply stated so as to be human-readable.
Here’s the problem: while the permalink once was the one true way to identify our content, it’s now going more or less unused, as people instead link to shortened urls, using services like Bit.ly or others which provide character economy in the links that are used around the web. Hence, with shortened urls in use, it becomes much harder, if not impossible to find mentions and, in fact, discussions, surrounding our content.
I’ve decried over the past year the ongoing diaspora of blog comments. The discussion continues, but for many bloggers, its moving out of the confines of their blog, into the realm of Twitter, Google Sidewiki, and in the semi-walled garden of Facebook.
It was one thing when there were reliable Trackbacks, but the spammers have all but killed that for us. Hence the discussion continues, but it often continues without us, the folks that wrote the content in the first place.
So here’s the thought: perhaps it’s time we rethought permalinks. Instead of existing as a single link, there probably ought to be both a long form (the old permalink) and a short form (shortened url) with the shortened url using the service of the bloggers choice. Hence the blog software would have knowledge of both the long form (which would be used mostly internally) and the short form, that which would allow us to actually track where our content goes online. This would further enable us to pull the discussions surrounding our content back into our pages where it ought to be…
Hence a blog which currently might have comments and trackbacks separately identified, might actually list the origin of a comment, such as “Via Twitter” or “Via Facebook” and actually thread the follow ups, and potentially direct replies from our blog to those comments back to the platform they came from as well.
The key concept here is that the blogger must control the initial shortened url, because the url shortening service becomes utterly key to our solution. That service, like so many today, could provide us with an aggregated comment feed via rss, analytics data about where our shortened url was used, by who and also combine the data with the usage of our long form permalink.
What are your thoughts?