Background Part 01: A core piece of Search Engine Optimization magic is to have human readable titles in your URL. For example: mySite.com/man-barks-at-moon/ rather than mySite.com/120984/.
Background Part 02: Older content management systems use the SEO unfriendly numbered system but organizations have implemented hacks to get around this.
Background Part 03: England’s Independent is one such organization. They’ve put a human readable title before a series of numbers that actually identify the article. Key point here though is that the readable part of the URL serves no purpose except for SEO. That is, if you change the words, the numbers still bring you to the correct article.
So why does this matter?
Because yesterday, a clever nutter turned this URL of a non-story about Kate Middleton
into a viral piece of media criticism:
Soon, many were passing along this new URL and the paper’s editor tried to respond.
Both URLs bring you to the same story. As a matter of fact, you can change any of the words before the “2269573” at the end and you’ll end up at the non-story. And, to keep things consistent, you can do this with any URL on Independent.co.uk that ends with a string of numbers.
So, as many consider the value of news games, and how to implement news games, here’s one paper that stumbled upon one quite unwittingly.
Slight Update: While the above still works, the Independent implemented a script today so that “faked” URLs work but transform back to what the paper intended.