On the Blosxom users mailing list (found at Yahoo), there was a thread started by Dave Walker, who wanted to know if there was a way to make Blosxom URL’s less crufty.
Then a guy who goes by the name Ben wrote this
And in it he said the coolest thing:
“In this light, the HTML is cruft if the person is only trying to access the story and does not care about the format. If, however, the person is specifically trying to access the HTML version of the story, the extension is necessary and worthwhile.”
Given that, I think that if you were to type something like this: http://www.tenletters.com/rhahn/category/entry, then what I ought to have returned is a list of possible representations for that entry to choose from.
Let me illustrate. Suppose you have a Blosxom blog with 4 formats: .txt, .html, .print, and .rss. if I punch in http://www.tenletters.com/rhahn/category/entry, then I should see something like this:
plain text: http://www.tenletters.com/rhahn/category/entry.txt
RSS 0.91: http://www.tenletters.com/rhahn/category/entry.rss
Seems like a good idea, but we’ll need to answer some tough questions.
What format should this representation be in? My suggestion would be to emit unflavored XHTML, and use only tags that also exist in HTML 3.2 and up. That means using these tags: <html>, <head>, <title>, <body>, <p>, <h[1-6]> and <a> — no other. My rationale for this is that by keeping it this simple, if a text browser requests it, they can still see the information, and it’s easy to parse. If a web service requests it, then they can parse the document as being well formed, even if it doesn’t ‘know’ what the semantics of the markup should imply. And, if it’s a web browser making the request, which will happen almost all the time, then it’ll still display properly.
What impact would this have on search engines? Probably none, since you’re returning an HTML document with links the spider can follow.
What about first impressions? What would the behaviour be if a visitor goes to http://www.tenletters.com/rhahn/, assuming that is the ‘home page’ of the blog? In this case, no menu would be visible, because the web server would have been configured to serve the default file type when given either a domain or directory name - typically, an html file.
Won’t that be confusing? I don’t think so. What we’re talking about is the best way to represent a permalink, and as far as I know, I don’t think people normally browse a site through permalinks.