Ranting on Redirects
12. January 2012 at 18:22 by Jörn Common

Redirects are a good to refactor the web: Instead of never changing anything, you can migrate to new URLs, and put redirects in place to keep old URLs alive. As anything, it can go very wrong.

As a recent example, I just clicked on this particular link: http://yuilibrary.com/theater/nicholas-zakas/zakas-architecture/

I found that link in a post elsewhere. When I click on it, I’m getting redirected to this page: http://yuilibrary.com/theater/

That’s not what I was looking for. To add insult to injury, when I search for “architecture” in the search field on that page, the first result is exactly the same, that I started with, again redirecting me to the latter useless one. And no, I’m not going to page through 10 pages looking for that one video, f*** you very much. (PS: YouTube channel search worked)

Speaking of redirects: If you own some smartphone, you may be aware that certain websites redirect you to their mobile site once they detect that you’re using a mobile browser. For example, when you open this link on an iPhone or Android phone: http://soundcloud.com/bassistance

You end up here: http://m.soundcloud.com/bassistance

But when you open that mobile specific page in a desktop browser, there’s no redirect happening, that would bring you back to the non-mobile page. There’s only an opt-in, as with many mobile specific pages.

At least the Mobile SoundCloud page also works on desktop browsers, but there’s a lot worse examples. Amazon for example gives you only a very crippled site, so if I share an Amazon page from my smartphone with someone, they end up on that same mobile page, lacking 80% of what Amazon normally has.

Mobile YouTube just screws it up completely. Whenever sharing a link, you end up on the mobile front page, losing all context you had.

I’ve got one more. Mozilla, not exactly on the evil side of the web, can of course screw up redirects just like anyone else. In this case, I attempted to open this page: https://developer.mozilla.org/en/aria/widgets/spinbutton

What I end up on is this instead: https://developer.mozilla.org/de/

What’s going on? Even though my system and browser is set to English, I’m getting redirected to a german site. I didn’t ask for that, and worse, it looses the deep link, as it redirects to the start page, not the one I actually wanted to open. So is it my fault for having added “German” to my list of preferred languages in my browser, as I need that for a specific project? Even though its set with a lower preference then English? I don’t think so.

So please, the next time you implement a redirect, think! Thanks for reading.

-Jörn