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What are redirects?

By David McKelvey


Every web page has a unique address called a URI or URL (depending on your upbringing) and this address is what tells your browser where to go to get the information it displays to you. However, like phone numbers, web addresses are not necessarily permanent, and do change from time to time.

So what can we do to help people find the new location when it changes? Well, wrapped into the underlying method of finding and retrieving a web content is an item called a redirect. A redirect can be permanent or temporary, and basically says to the browser, “Hey, that thing you were looking for here; it’s now located over there for now (and forever, if permanent).”

When we launched the new Lewis & Clark website, we created something on the order of nearly 2000 individual and group redirects from the the old locations to the new locations. We still maintain about 2,500 now.

The way we did this, is that in every page of the new site (LiveWhale) there are comments that look like this:

(or, sometimes only…)

Then, once in a while, we run a script that collects all these comments across the entire site and assembles them into a reference for the web server. When the web server receives a request for a page that doesn’t exist, it checks with this reference, and if it finds a match, it automatically sends the visitor to the new location.

The good thing about redirection is that it works whether the web page requested is via a bookmark or favorite, or through a link from an email or another website, or from our own website.

So — in order to keep things working, we first ask that you don’t delete those special comments. If you wish, you can in fact add your own, although your addition will have to meet some criteria. If you have any questions about redirects, send us an email.


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