Twitter: canonical URLs and Protocols

On Twitter, I’m twitter.com/pigsonthewing, but in my preferred twitter client, Dabr, I’m dabr.co.uk/user/pigsonthewing. We might refer to the former as the “canonical” URL.

There are a number of other web-based Twitter clients, too, and people using them can find my twitter stream, variously, at:

Likewise each of my Twitter posts, or “tweets”, has a URL on each of some of those domains (though not on all, it seems). For example:

Twitter

Dabr

are all the same tweet. We can again regard the first of them, on twitter.com, as canonical.

Anyone using one of those services, and who wants to link to my profile or one of my tweets will either post the URL as it appears in their service, which isn’t much use to people not using that service, or expend time and effort translating the URL into the generic, canonical, Twitter format — which even then may not be of much use to someone using something else.

In the short term, we could do with some recognition of this fact from the above services, which might provide a link to the “standard” or canonical URL for that tweet; and when doing so on an individual page, should link to it using rel="alternate" and/ or rel="canonical".

Better still, there could be browser tools (such as FireFox plug-in or Greasemonkey script) to do that task, automagically.

Ultimately, though, as Twitter becomes ever more widespread, perhaps we need a pair of protocols for linking to Twitter profiles and posts. Using this, authors would be able to mark up links to me and my comments on Twitter as, say:

<a href="twitter:pigsonthewing">Andy Mabbett</a> said <a href="twitterpost:1827840116">something witty</a>.

Then, each reader could set their computer to open those links their choice of browser-based or desk-top/ mobile phone client. The setting to do could even be changed in the installation package for such tools, to aid non-technical users.

Footnote: if you know of another URL for my Twitter stream, please let me know!

About Andy Mabbett

Enjoying my freelance career, helping organisations to understand on-line communities, open content, and related issues; often as a Wikimedian (or Wikipedian) in Residence.

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5 Responses to Twitter: canonical URLs and Protocols

  1. bruce says:

    Nice idea, though perhaps you might propose standardising a microblog protocol rather than a vendor-specific one like twitter, so if there is a rival to twitter, the user can set that to fire up instead — in the same way that tel or mailto are not called skype: and Exchange:, for example.

    (I forget who standardises this list now)

    • pigsonthewing says:

      Thanks Bruce – though I note that the AOL Instant Messenger protocol is AIM:. What would happen in your model, if you’re @brucel on Twitter, but, say, Bruce Lebowski has that name on AcmeMicroblogging.com? Would we need something like microblog:twitter-brucel? I don’t have the answer, but there’s an interesting problem waiting to be solved.

      The URI scheme is registered with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

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  3. Pingback: michael holloway (m_holloway) « Twitter: canonical URLs and Protocols « Mabblog « Chat Catcher

  4. Toby Inkster says:

    Instead of href=”twitter:foo” why not just use the existing href=”http://twitter.com/foo” and tell your browser tools (greasemonkey, whatever) to hook onto the URL prefix “http://twitter.com/” instead of “twitter:”?

    That way, you get the benefit of a little backwards compatibility, and save the hassle of registering a new URI scheme every time a social networking site decides to become popular?

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