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What is a Permalink?

By Solomon Branch
Updated May 16, 2024
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A permalink, a combination of the words permanent and link, is a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that points to a specific message board or blog entry after it has passed from the front page to an archived page. Unlike links that can become dead or unavailable, permalinks remain unchanged over time. The term permalink is primarily used in web blogs, whereas most other websites use the term permanent link.

Permalinks work by remaining constant. Previously, the more dynamic database-backed content management systems (CMSs) would change the links URLs creating dead links, a condition known as link rot. The software would also change the URLs to something longer and unwieldy, making it difficult to read. Permalinks solve this problem by making the URL static and also more human-readable, meaning it would be laid out in a manner easy to read by a casual viewer.

The primary users of permalinks are bloggers, those who write in a journal type platform, known as a blog, on the Internet. Due to the way most blogs are displayed, entries in the blog are typically only available for a brief time on the main page, and newer entries displace the older ones and relegate them to an archive. If the blog is updated frequently, this can create a problem for those who want to either visit an entry they have viewed before or link back to the entry from another web site or blog. The permalink can solve this problem.

Permalinks usually have the title, date, entry, and comments listed in the text, thus making it decipherable as to what the link references, when it was posted, and who wrote it. This makes it convenient for categorization and referencing. Most permalinks are identified with a symbol or the word permalink in text, making them easily recognizable.

One issue that has come up with permalinks is versioning, which refers to updates made to the entry. When an update is made to a blog or web entry that has a permalink attached to it, the permalink usually does not change. Most software that supports permalinking behaves this way, meaning it does not support versioning. This can be an issue if the link is used in research or is linked from a website or other blog for specific content. Some systems solve this by supporting versioning, and if the content of an entry is changed, an additional permalink is created linking to the new version.

The use of permalinks has increased due to the increased content available on the web. They are often used to track link statistics, such as who is linking to a particular entry and how often. This is helpful for bloggers and website owners so they can monitor and adjust content. Streaming syndication software, such as Real Simple Syndication (RSS), often utilizes permalinks to link to blog entries and news sites.

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