Relative Links in Bloglines

Album Cover: Crash

"You wear nothing, but you wear it so well."
Dave Matthews Band / Crash Into Me

Posted on April 10, 2005 10:55 PM in Blogging
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I just noticed tonight that when Bloglines encounters a relative link in an RSS or Atom feed, it simply treats it as if it was a relative link in the domain of the Bloglines website. This is extremely unfortunate, because I typically use relative links whenever I link back to my own site (e.g. when linking to previous posts, my contact form, etc.). Even though I do provide full-text entries in my feed, being a web designer at heart, I do like the thought of the occasional reader coming by to lay his or her eyes on my actual site.

I started to contact Bloglines regarding the matter, but then I realized that deciphering the actual location of a relative link isn't always straightforward. When using relative links on my blog, I almost always include the leading slash (e.g. /item.php?id=187), so in those cases it wouldn't be hard for Bloglines to deduce that the actual link should point to http://www.bernzilla.com/item.php?id=187. In the case where a leading slash isn't provided, though, the actual link location isn't as easy to determine. For instance, I recently posted a link to the discussion forum at my Coldplay site that showed up in that site's RSS feed as simply a link to discussion. Because in that particular case a leading slash would point site visitors to the wrong location, it makes it that much harder for Bloglines to determine what URI I meant to link to. Why? Because my feed may not always exist in an intuitive location. This site's feed, for instance, lives in a feed folder that is separate from the site's other main files.

So why use relative links in the first place? Well, I've learned the hard way that absolute links make moving to a new domain a pain in the arse. While I don't plan on moving away from Bernzilla.com anytime soon, I've also learned never to say never. Plus, as others have pointed out, relative links do not hinder search engine visibility in any way, and actually allow for less bandwidth consumption when used religiously.

While I think Bloglines could be a bit smarter about the way they handle relative links, I also can see why handling them on a global scale may not be feasible, or at least practical. It's just one of those things I guess I'll have to live with, because I don't see myself switching to absolute links any time soon.

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