Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friendly URLs and freedom of speech

Friendly URLs are being used more and more,  the idea behind it being that the most important idea (or the most relevant words) published in a web page, if it is relevant enough, should be reflected in the URL. My opinion is that such procedures are silly, since URLs are part of the networking protocols involved and should have no relation at all with the content, but it seems that I've lost that battle, and given that it hurts nobody, we'll let that stay.

The main reason why that is happening is that many of the main searching/crawling algortithms used by the internet search engines (yes, I mean Google) give extra 'points' to words contained in the URLs. And since, to 'exist' in the Internet you have to be as high as possible in Google's (consider that a placeholder for your favorite search engine) result list, friendly URLs use is growing fast.

Why do I bring the freedom of speech into this article? I came to think about this while watching TV news about the iranian elections, specially regarding how many internet services are being censored in an effort to control the information (both coming from the country or being given to the country's people). This is not new and should surprise nobody, since we all know examples of internet traffic being controlled, blog posts being censored (and in some cases their writers being sent to jail), search results being filtered, etc... China and Cuba come first to mind, but there are others.

The kind of governments I'm talking about need to invest big efforts into these duties (or making others make those efforts, let's everybody remember how companies like Google or Yahoo have agreed up to some point to filter their results in such countries). Internet is meant to be free, so, why is it getting easier to censor? Regarding the most important blog platforms and communication groups or newspapers web sites, if you want information about Iran's election fraud (presumptive), by blocking anything that contains the words 'iran' or 'Ahmadinejad' (and maybe a couple more) you've done 90% of the job. That's it. A couple of lines in a proxy configuration.

So, here's my thought: Internet is the tool for freedom of information, freedom of speech, etc... and one of the most important changes that is happening these days is due to economic reasons (google will position you higher, so you use that kind of URLs to grab as much visitors as possible and the only reason for that is to get more money/invest return,....). And I have no problem with that, our world is run by economics. But not when it might the very basis of the flow of information.

Am I being too naive? Have I chosen a too childish example to express my concerns(I mean, boy, who cares about friendly URLs anyway?)? I'd love to hear your thougts

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