What is up with your URLs, eBay? When you click a link from an eBay search, you go to a URL that looks like this:
This is obviously insane — there’s no reason URLs can’t be both unambiguous and human-readable.
The domain should make sense. What the fuck is
cgi? This is gibberish to any non-technical user. The domain should just be
ebay.com (I’m looking in your direction, www2.seamlessweb.com).
Since URLs need to unambiguously point to a single page, it won’t always be possible to make them entirely human-readable. However, you should limit the non-human-readable portion of the URL to the shortest string necessary to ensure uniqueness.
URLs should include additional text to make them easy to identify. eBay actually does an okay job of this by including “Bernard-Madoff-Ceramic-Coffee-Mug-Hard-to-get”, but ideally this should appear at the end of the URL.
Here’s a quick improvement on that eBay URL:
123456 is the auction’s unique internal id. Of course
http://ebay.com/auctions/123456/ should work as well (since the auction is uniquely identified by the numeric string).
This is a good generic solution, but we might be able to do even better. I.e., there might be a more human-readable way to make the URL unique than embedding the auction’s internal id. For example, eBay could use a Blogger-like strategy:
If two auctions with the same name share an end date, append a number to the end of the URL. If you want to avoid this, you could add information about the seller to the URL:
The nice part about this solution is that you could have
http://ebay.com/auctions/seller-rogrpodcater take you to a page listing all of rogrpodacter’s auctions. The downside to this solution is that now the URL is getting pretty long.
There will always be a tension in URLs between human-readability, unambiguousness, and brevity. The important thing is making sure that you don’t sacrifice one value without improving another.