pet peeves with modern web design: design reboot (Part 4)

Wrapping up the series with some thoughts on two things that bug me about modern standards-based Web design / CMS:

Why is Base HREF dead?

This probably reveals just how old-school a HTML coder I am, but I can still remember the days when Base HREF was a Big Thing. Here’s an obligatory link with more details for the young whipper-snappers out there.

When I initially created a development environment locally, I had to spend a lot of time fixing broken links to images as well as cross-links between posts. As I struggled in my text editor to fix all these links, I had this bright idea “Hey! I should just use BASE HREF – that way I won’t have to fix URLs every time I move between development & the live site”.

I happily coded in a Base HREF tag using the wpurl() function and at first, everything seemed to be fine. But once I switched to viewing the site through RSS, things started to break. First, the feed would not pass validation and second, an important plugin stopped working.

A little bit of research showed that the W3C standards for XML documents allowed for a BASE entity, but further digging on Base HREF support in RSS revealed this dead end. The only way to get Base HREF in RSS it seems, is to hack the core CMS files and once I did that, there would be no easy upgrades for me.

I gave up and went back to fixing URLs by hand1, but I’m still puzzled by why such a useful feature fell out of favor with the powers-that-be.

The spread of no-follow

Ever since Google launched no-follow as a way to control link spam, it has found it’s way into all the major CMS software – WordPress, MovableType, MediaWiki etc.

I understand the purpose of having no-follow to defeat spammers, but what gets me is the fact that most CMS software today offer no way to switch this off. No-follow implemented this way really annoys me – you encourage people to contribute to the content on your site and boost your popularity, yet you do not repay the favor in any way.

A recent example – Miyagi.sg blogs about a website called Million Blog List, an experiment to see how quickly a million blogs can be found. The site asks you to:

1. Blog about adding yourself to the list

2. Add the site to your blogroll; and

3. Add a badge promoting the site.

What do you get in return you might ask? This -

mbl

I’m giving the benefit of the people behind the idea here – maybe they thought the site would link back to anyone who participated2 and have no idea that most CMS software does not by default3.

Here’s what I think – no-follow should be opt-in, not opt-out and I certainly shouldn’t have to install a plugin to fix what is considered basic good manners on the Web.

That’s the end of this little series, folks. We now return to our regularly programmed silence on this blog :-) .


  1. although I am now aware of a plugin and a technique that might make this process easier 

  2. as it seems to any human visiting the site 

  3. the alternative is quite depressing to contemplate 

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