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Everyone knows that the "current" way to do things is to have user-readable URLs. Like:

http://example.com/blog/edit/1234

Rather than:

http://example.com/blog.php?action=edit&id=1234

When exactly did people start making web technologies handling this though? I remember in the dark ages of the early 2000s, I don't remember ever seeing a friendly URL. In fact, I think Stackoverflow (in 2008/9) may have been the first time I noticed them.

When exactly did this become so popular, and what were the first servers/frameworks built with friendly URLs in mind?

I'm interested as well in when rewriting to friendly URLs became common, and when serving friendly URLs natively became common

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4  
I would say the web started out like this: linked sites with a hierarchical structure. So it's a back to basics rather the something new. –  Pieter B Jun 14 '13 at 12:38

4 Answers 4

I’d say the first publicly available website of the Web had/has a friendly URL:

http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

The same is true for many of the early websites, e.g. the WWWVL (see the history, which contains some of the original URLs).

It’s a subject for debate if the file extension (.html) is "friendly" or not. I’d say especially in the first years it was important for users. But even today it can be good for usability, e.g. if you provide the resource in several different file formats.

But to be fair, those sites don’t use many GET forms, if any at all (at least in 1995 the form element was defined, which can be considered "HTML 2"). You can get friendly URLs by using static HTML files "for free", but if you provide GET forms, you’d have to rewrite the URLs.

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+1: when web sites where pretty much just folders with files in it, "readable" URLs where the norms. The more dynamic "call-an-application-to-produce-the-content" (a.k.a. CGI) turned the web-urls unreadable. –  Joachim Sauer Jul 8 '13 at 10:22

When exactly did people start making web technologies handling this though?

mod_rewrite handles this functionality on Apache and mod_rewrite has been available since Apache 1.3, which was released on June 6, 1998.

See also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rewrite_engine

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I would probably go with this link which puts the idea being put to an acronym at 2000.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restful

I can only offer anecdotal on your last concern. I don't recall being particularly aware of Restful vs. Soap until shortly after I became UI web developer in 2005ish but definitely had the sense it was still something a lot of people didn't think about.

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We actually have Google to thank for this.

Google was founded in 1998, but in 1999 they released PageRank which was a popular tool for checking the ranking of a site in Google's index. PageRank was this ambiguous number that represented the score of a URL compared to other URLs in Google's database.

When PageRank was released Google gave limited information on how their page ranking algorithm worked, but one thing they did state was that words in the URL were included in ranking.

Now when you search for content using Google. It will also highlight search terms in the URL as part of the results highlighting.

Thus was born human readable URLs. Everyone wanted to get a better ranking so all these cryptic query parameters were replaced with keywords.

We call them human readable but they are really web crawler readable.

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Well, Google did this because webmasters used friendly URLs. First there were friendly URLs, then search engines made use of them. –  unor Jul 8 '13 at 9:29

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