A Standard to Specify a Canonical Short Link

There has been a small push to create a standard way for a web page to specify a preferred short link for use in places like Twitter. Something like the rel="canonical" trick that tells search engines which page on your domain is the one that should be indexed. Basically, a meta tag to put in the page header, which could then be read by Twitter applications. The end goal is to help reduce the issue of “link splintering,” where everyone ends up linking to the same page with a different URL. (For instance, I could shorten a link to this page with Is.gd, then three others could create their own different Bit.ly links…)

One proposal is rev=”canonical”, but I really don’t I don’t like that option. This comment sums it up pretty well. Rev is too easily confused with rel, and is deprecated in HTML5 to boot. The “canonical” terminology also isn’t fitting, since it implies that the short URL is the preferred URL for the page (i.e. “the short link is preferred over the full one”) rather than an alternate link.

I found it interesting to learn that WordPress 3.0 is going to start automatically including something along the lines of this on permalink pages:

<link rel='shortlink' href='http://fantasyfolder.com?p=32' />

There will be hooks to override it with your own URL (so a plugin could place a single Bit.ly or YOURLS link there on publication), but the URL is irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion. The rel='shortlink' part is what interests me. I think it’s the perfect term to use for this scenario.

I think, whether you use WordPress or not, rel="shortlink" is what you should go with. (If you’re worried about controlling short links, at least.)

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