UPDATE [15:06 April 14th 2009]
Revcanonical is a WordPress plugin that creates localised shortened urls, and adds support for the rev=canonical link tag.
Revcanonical came about after seeing a post on Mr Willison’s website a few days ago. I’d seen mutterings around the web from Joshua Schachter, Dave Winer and Chris Shiflett about how url shortening services are not great for the web for amongst many reasons, the persistence of the link becomes questionable, because you are relying on that service actually being around in 20 years.
It seems that clever people have taken the conversation further and have actually started to come up with possible solutions. One such solution is rev= canonical, and is the one I liked and hence wanted to implement into my site. In fact, some of the big players have already added rev=canonical to their sites. Flickr, Dopplr and php.net already have pages that use it and there’s even a rev= canonical web service. That’s millions of pages already out there.
By default, once you install the plugin to your WordPress blog, you will get a tag added to the source of your page that will contain a shortened version of the url for the page it sits in.
<link rev="canonical" type="text/html" href="http://whomwah.com/p12p" />
That’s it! You can now, not only use this url in sites like Twitter without having to go via a url shortening service, but services or people that understand the rev=canonical link tag, will be able to use this shortened version over the longer canonical version. For example, Simon has build a great bookmarklet that does just this. You can use it when you are on a url you’d like to share. It will return the shortened version of the url if it’s available, otherwise it will use a shortening service as a last resort. This means that if I go to this page:
And I want to share this link on Twitter for example. The bookmarklet would see I have implemented rev=canonical and would fetch the shortened url.
In fact, you would in reality get this:
as the plugin allows you to add your own shortened domain (and I bought one). It’s up to you though point this new domain to the right place.
So, this means that I still get a short url to share, that works on my website, but also means that it’s persistence is down to me, and not to a 3rd party. It also means that if people to http://littl.me, it redirects to my website, so hopefully there’s a little more trust in the shortened url final destination.
Some final tech bits. It uses a base36 encoded post ID (made sense and was simple to implement) in the shortened url with the letter p to namespace. It also creates a 301 as the general consensus agreed.
Oh and if you use the TweetMe plugin I wrote then I’m just in the process of deploying a new version that will use your localised shortened link if it’s available.
[UPDATE] I’m getting lots of people asking why I went for rev=canonical and not rel=shortlink etc. The truth is no particular reason, other than more people I knew and trusted have gone for the former. There appears to be no definitive correct way yet as far as I can see, so until there is I’ll have to make an executive choice.