Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Tidying dynamic URL’s

15th June 2007

A few years back, I came across a very nice article discussing how you would make a dynamic URL more palatable to a search engine and I made good use of its content for my online photo gallery. The premise was that URL’s looking like that below are no help to search engines indexing a website. Though this is received wisdom in some quarters, it doesn’t seem to have done much to stall the rise of WordPress as a blogging platform.

http://www.mywebsite.com/serversidescript.php?id=394

That said, WordPress does offer a friendlier URL display option too and you can see this in use on this blog; they look a little like the example URL that you see below and the approach is equally valid for both Perl and PHP. I have using the same approach for the Perl scripts powering my online phone gallery and now want to apply the same thinking to a gallery written in PHP:

http://www.mywebsite.com/serversidescript.pl/id/394

The way that both expressions work is that a web server will chop pieces from a URL until it reaches a physical file. For a query URL, the extra information after the question mark is retained in its QUERY_STRING variable while extraneous directory path information is passed in the variable PATH_INFO. For both Perl and PHP, these are extracted from the entries in an array; for Perl, this array is called is $ENV and $_SERVER is the PHP equivalent. Thus, $ENV{QUERY_STRING} and $_SERVER{‘QUERY_STRING’} traps what comes after the "?" while $ENV{PATH_INFO} and $_SERVER{‘PATH_INFO’} picks up the extra information following the file name (the "/id/394/" in the example). From there on, the usual rules apply regarding cleaning of any input but changing from one to another should be too arduous.

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