URL forwarding

What is URL forwarding?

URL redirection, also called URL forwarding, domain redirection and domain forwarding, is a technique on the Internet for making a web page available under many URLs.

Purposes

There are several reasons for a webmaster to use redirection:

Similar domain names

A web browser user might mis-type a URL, therefore URL’s with similar spellings are registered.

This technique is often used to "reserve" other TLDs with the same name, or make it easier for a true ".edu" or ".net" to redirect to a more recognisable ".com" domain.

Moving a site to a new domain

Why redirect a web page?

  • A web site might need to change its domain name.
  • An author might move his or her pages to a new domain.
  • Two web sites might merge.

Logging outgoing links

The access logs of most web servers keep detailed information from where visitors came and how they browsed the hosted site.

They do not, however, log which links visitors left by. This information can be captured in several ways. One way involves URL redirection.

Instead of sending the visitor straight to the other site, links on the site can direct to a URL on the original website's domain that automatically redirects to the real target. This added request will leave a trace in the server logs saying exactly which link was followed.

Short, meaningful, persistent aliases for long or changing URLs

Currently, web engineers tend to pass descriptive attributes in the URL to represent data hierarchies, command structures, transaction paths and session information. This results in a URL that is aesthetically unpleasant and difficult to remember. Sometimes the URL of a page changes even though the content stays the same.

Manipulating search engines

Some years ago, redirect techniques were used to fool search engines. For example, one page could show popular search terms to search engines but redirect the visitors to a different target page.

There are also cases where redirects have been used to "steal" the page rank of one popular page and use it for a different page, usually involving the 302 HTTP status code of "moved temporarily."

Usually, sites that employ such techniques to manipulate search engines are punished automatically by reducing their ranking or by excluding them from the search index.

Satire and criticism

A domain name that conveys one meaning can be redirected to any other web page, sometimes with malicious intent.

Manipulating visitors

URL redirection is sometimes used as a part of phishing attacks that confuse visitors about which web site they are visiting.

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