The art of the epic friendly URL



Recently the Next Web wrote an article about movie studios asking Google to remove pirated content from search results – except a large proportion of the content they want de-listed was on the studios own servers (localhost and 127.0.0).

This is belly achingly funny and clearly Owen Williams, who wrote the article for TNW thought so too as the friendly part of the URL is simply a string of haha’s.

That may explain why I found it so hard to find the story again in Google – as Google does use the URL in part when it ranks stories (although an increasingly small part of rankings). But it is a genius piece of URL-ing.


A friendly URL is usually a description of the content it links to, and came into popularity as a result of database driven articles. It’s something most good content production systems, like WordPress, allow you to implement fairly easily – I use it on this site with the URL generated from the story title.

The BBC has a mixed policy on friendly URLs, with the iPlayer using them but the news site not. BBC News just has a story ID (which is generated in the News CPS at the time of writing the article). The iPlayer appends the programme name to the end of the URL but the link still works if you remove it.

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The Daily Mail and the Guardian both do much the same as the BBC iPlayer – they have a friendly URL but it doesn’t always reflect the headline of the story, it tends to be more SEO friendly including keywords and names.

There have been occasions where a friendly URL has given away the true intention of the author, before the sub editors have got to the story – but I can’t find any specific examples at the moment.

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