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Why the funky redirects?

posted Jan 8, 2009, 4:25 PM by Eddie Woo   [ updated Jan 8, 2009, 4:49 PM ]
This news post is a direct reply to Blair's recent discovery about URL redirects on the intranet site. Go read his post if you want to know what this post is about.

In a sentence: the purpose of the redirect is to protect the privacy of the intranet page that is linking offsite

Let me explain what I mean. Suppose you have a blog and you link to Woo Random Files, and someone visiting your blog clicks on the link and ends up on this website. If I am monitoring the incoming traffic to this website (which I am), then I can track the URL of the page that referred your visitor over to my website. Understandably, it's called a referral URL. It tells me how traffic arrives here. For instance, I can use it to work out what search terms at Google end up pointing to this website.Or I can find out whether most people are coming directly to the site, or coming from someone else's linking. Here's a screenshot of my current management information system showing this data:
I won't show you the list of the actual URLs that do refer to this website, as that wouldn't really be appropriate in a public forum. But you get the idea: if someone links to me, I can find out where from. 

Now this is not very good for (supposedly) secured sites, because it means that any site you link to can discover the URLs of your pages (by means of tracking referrals). Here's the cool part. Google Sites knows this and, if you have set a site to be private (like our new intranet), it automatically puts a 'buffer' between you and the website you're linking to. The buffer, as you've discovered, is that little redirect. Now if you click on an offsite link, the website you go to will not be able to track the referral back to our intranet; all they can see is the referral URL of the redirect (which in this case is a generic address provided by Google). This keeps the URL of the pages on your private site secure. Clever, huh?