URL Dogma for Community Server

A long time ago I read Ian G's blog post about URI design and his approach immediately appealed to me. His ideas on this subject continue to withstand the test of time, so I recently decided to implement this design for Community Server. Next I may attempt to do the same thing with Subtext, which runs this blog.
Ian's stated goals for his URL design were:

  • No extensions (e.g. .aspx) or other implementation artifacts. The fact that I’m using .aspx pages internally is of no real relevance to anything, so it has no business appearing in a web browser’s address bar – I want the name of the page to be the name of the page, no more, no less. I also want the name to be durable, so that whenever I switch over from .aspx pages to whatever technology comes next, I don’t break any links.
  • ‘Hackability,’ as Jakob Nielsen calls it. In other words, the user should be able to munge the URL by hand in the address bar and have it behave like it looks like it should behave.

These goals are in tune with another good article on URI design by Mike Amundsen: see what makes a good URL.
I believe I have now accomplished the implementation of these URI design goals for Community Server and I'll show you how in this post.
Below is an example of what my URIs look like now. From the blog post URL shown below, each URL segment can be hacked off and the resulting URL is valid and works as one would expect.
http://mydomain.com/blogs/myblog/2006 (this one probably isn't ideal. Currently, for CS, I just show January for the year instead of showing the whole year)
I was able to accomplish this implementation with two fairly simple changes to Community Server. The change that took the most work to get right was my revised SiteUrls.config. (Clicking that link will download a zip archive containing the actual SiteUrls.config file I'm using on a production web site.) If you drop this config file into your Community Server installation, your blog URLs will look and act just like the example shown above -- as soon as you take care of the second step of my solution.
The second step was much easier for me to implement, but it does involve modifying code. I posted about this code change on the CS forums. In ReWrittenUrl.cs, the Convert method had to be refactored as shown here:
public virtual string Convert(string url, string qs)
string newUrl = _regex.Replace(url, _path);
if(qs != null && newUrl.Contains("?"))
qs = qs.Replace("?","&");
return string.Format("{0}{1}", newUrl, qs);

As I said, it ended up being a really simple change and it doesn't alter any of Community Server's standard behavior.
I believe the easiest way to deal with this is to build a new CommunityServer.Components.dll using the code shown above and then drop this assembly into your \Web\bin folder. In fact, I'll provide such a dll for CS 2.1 SP2 here if enough people request it.
The installation steps are:

  • Enable wildcard mapping in IIS.
  • Back up your old SiteUrls.config and replace it with my SiteUrls.config.
  • Drop the modified CommunityServer.Components.dll into \Web\bin.

Please share your feedback with me. Let me know if you have problems with any of my modifications. And if you extend this implementation with success, please contact me and let me know, in keeping with the open source spirit.


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thanks you share!

You can probably also reverse the date order, but if you do that, you'll kill the "hackable" features of the url. The URLs will no longer be logical in that sense. If you provide only the dd value, what does that mean? Does it return all posts on "dd" for all months and years? It could get pretty weird.

Hi Dave,I promised to let you know once I tried and now I have.So far I am having a world of trouble. My mapping is good. But when I drop the dll and the new SiteUrls.config nothing wants to open, not blog posts, not forums (the main files like control panel, or the blog/gallery page will).Then I tryed switching back, but again nothing. So far I have no idea what went wrong, and I have no idea how to fix it except to try and reupload the whole site.Reseting the app dosen't help either.

If you want to post the error messages, I'll see if I have any suggestions. Check CS exceptions (and check the box to show unhandled exceptions too), and you might want to take a look at IIS logs.Good luck.

It is the standard 404 error mesage. IIS logs are not saying anything except that there was a 404 exception; OTOH I read so few of these I am not sure what I am looking for.

Ranko - What about the exceptions report in the CS control panel? And what exactly did the 404 error message say?

Did some poking and found the error. My host just confirmed that "Verify that file exists" was checked for aspx pages.Now it works like a charm.Before I dig into the SiteUrl.config to see what I can do I'll ask about the first things I know I want to do: is there an easy explanation on how I can remove the blog from url; change it to some random word (like news); and is there a way to reverse the date order in the URL to dd/mm/yyyy format?Thanks Dave.

@Ranko - congrats on getting it working.Yes, you can change the word "blogs" to "news" in the URLs using SiteUrls.config. The easy way is to rename the physical directory and then change the path in the location element. If I were doing this myself, however, I would not change the physical path. You can do it all in SiteUrls.config, but it may take using the mappings element. There is a sample in the SiteUrls.config file I provided. Good luck.You can probably also reverse the date order, but if you do that, you'll kill the "hackable" features of the url. The URLs will no longer be logical in that sense. If you provide only the dd value, what does that mean? Does it return all posts on "dd" for all months and years? It could get pretty weird.

You got me wrong with the dates. What I want is to change the current display from yyyy/mm/dd to a more Euro friendly format of dd/mm/yyyy.As for the rest first I have to figure out why entryX.aspx pages are not showing on my Downloads.

BTW, site statistics with both AWStats and Google Analytics work fine with this "Url Dogma" solution.