On URL readability

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Yesterday, I was watching some season 6 episodes of Futurama (btw, this is their best season ever!) and I noticed the URLs in the website I was in (let’s call it foo.com). They were like:


I thought to myself “hey, this looks very clean and readable”. And then I noticed that it only has 1 less character than its non-rewritten counterpart:


However, I’m pretty sure you agree that the second one is much harder to read. I asked for opinions on twitter, and got many interesting replies. Apart from the ones that completely missed the point, these were the core explanations:

Regarding hierarchy and RESTful design, the first example isn’t exactly correct. If it was hierarchical, it should be foo.com/futurama/seasons/6/episodes/9. As it currently stands, it’s key-value pairs, masquerading as hierarchical. However, it still reads better.

So I’m leaning towards the first three explanations, although I think all of them have a grain of truth. Which makes me wonder: Did we choose the wrong characters for our protocol? Could we have saved ourselves the hassle and performance overhead of URL rewriting if we were a bit more careful in choosing the separators back then?

Also, some food for thought: Where do you think the following URLs stand in the legibility scale?



http : //foo.com/futurama-season-6-episode-9  (suggested by Ben Alman)

Do you think there are there any explanations that I missed?