Packetizer

Verisign's Hashlinks

September 13, 2012

I received an email from one of my domain registrars advertising with great fanfare a new "service" from Verisign called "Domain Hashlink". I don't know exactly how they expect to make money with this, but they said this about the service:

A new navigation tool from Verisign that lets you replace long and difficult-to-remember URLs with shorter, more consumer-friendly vanity URLs; e.g. example.com#keyword

They call it a tool, but also call it a service. They even have retailers who will sell the service! I get the idea of having something like "keywords" to take visitors to specific pages on your own site, but to call this a service and have people selling it? Who would pay for this?

It took me just a very few minutes to get this working:

http://www.packetizer.com#h323

There is a very small JavaScript program I wrote called hashlink.js. This queries the server to see if there is a link that matches a known value. If it matches, the page is replaced with the associated URL.

I'm not even sure why Verisign wants to use the hash character. This character has a specific purpose in URLs, and this is really not within the spirit of the original purpose.

It also seems somewhat unreliable. The JavaScript code only runs when the page is initially loaded. I noted in Chrome that if I load a page without using a HashLink and then add one, Chrome will not reload or execute the JavaScript code. If I hit refresh it will.

So in replicating the "service", what I did was create something very similar that uses the @ character. Here's an example:

http://www.packetizer.com/@h323

This is much more reliable, because this always results in a redirection or a 404. You cannot return a 404 when using the hash character, because there might actually be something in the web page itself that needs that hash. Besides, what would one return in a 404? Suggest the main page is not found? That's horrific.

As I said, the HashLink idea is a bit odd and does not work perfectly well. I wish they had used something like the "@" approach. Any number of characters would have worked.

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Paul E. Jones

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