URLs have been around for more than 20 years. They're a method of 'identifying a resource', which means 'unambiguously pointing to something on the internet.' That's how they're normally used: URLs point to websites, articles, images, songs, videos, downloads - everything. Most people don't give them much thought, in part because web browsers increasingly hide URLs away. But some URLs have special powers.
We can see some general principles at work in these URLs:
- A URL points to a thing, but it can also be the thing itself. […]
- URLs can be for both human and machine consumption. […]
- URLs can be robust. Even if the Combine.fm service fails or dies, you can easily return to the original links.
- URLs can be predictable. […]
- Let power users edit your URLs […]
- Good URLs are descriptive. […]
These principles aren't applicable to every scenario. Sometimes a link is just a pointer to a particular document online. A news website would find it hard to let users edit their links in a meaningful way. And sometimes you want your URLs to be hard to predict (for instance, you don't want people to guess the links to your Google docs).
URLs are consumed by machines, but they should be designed for humans. If your URL thinking stops at 'uniquely identifies a page' and 'good for SEO', you're missing out.