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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What does your URL scheme say about you?

A couple of years ago, there was a notion going around that you could tell a lot about a person by their e-mail address. If it was aol.com, they probably weren't exactly super technical. You could get a better "read" on someone based on whether they were using something like Hotmail or Yahoo early on.

A lot of people had ISP e-mail accounts, and that told you a lot about them too. You might be with a huge one (netcom, mindspring, earthlink) or with some tiny little thing nobody else had ever heard of. Then there were all of us weird Unix types who registered our own domains and never looked back. It could be seen as a way to claim you were "old school", or at least had been around longer than those other people.

It occurred to me this morning that you might be able to learn a bit about an organization by how they arrange their web sites. The URLs themselves might convey a certain amount of information about the inner workings and culture.

Let's say we're talking about a product named "Cat Pictures". Here's how that might be turned into URLs, and what those might say about the company or person who set it up:

catpictures.com : That's probably all they do, or they register a domain name for every single project they have.

catpictr.com : They're still on the "Flickr" naming kick.

company.com : That's all they do.

company.com/catpictures : Maybe they have another product now!

company.com/products/catpictures : Uh oh.

company.com/archive/2005/products/catpictures : It's not on the front burner any more. Be lucky if it even works. Expect a lot of broken links and outdated info.

www05.xyz.company.com/01,ff,30561/support_en/... : Oh, forget it. Corporate Hell has set in, bigtime.

I was inspired by a comment on Hacker News this morning which was someone plugging their company's services. The URL looked like this:

https://ggm.company.com/display/SUPPORT/Product+Name+Downloads/

I guess if you're looking for a stodgy corporate type experience, that URL is fine. However, I don't think you're going to expect a zippy little startup environment with that kind of scheme. I mean, who willingly creates something like that?