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Pet Peeve: Sharing-Proof Web Addresses

A few minutes ago, I was going to share a Web address with a reader--it was a tech-support article on Intuit's TurboTax site. But my browser window only showed the first part of this address. When I pasted it into an e-mail message, the following gobbledygook sprawled across the screen:

http://support.turbotax.intuit.com
/cgi-bin/turbotax.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=170&p_sid=GbEeyWri&p_accessibility=&
p_pv=&p_cv=&p_prods=&p_cats=&p_sp=cF9zZWFyY2hfdGV4dD1ndWFyYW50ZWUmcF9zZWF
yY2hfdHlwZT1hbnN3ZXJzLnNlYXJjaF9ubCZwX3NvcnRfYnk9&p_topview=1

Ack! Any address that long is guaranteed to wrap around multiple lines of text--which means that in many e-mail programs, clicking on it will only send one line's worth of the address to your browser, resulting in one of those annoying error-404 "page not found" messages.

I took another look at that, then realized that I could probably hack everything to the right of the ID number, 170. (A decade or so of putting Web addresses into the paper has taught me how to prune them for print--the longer the address gets, the more likely it will be mis-read or mis-typed.) And what do you know, this far shorter address worked just fine:

http://support.turbotax.intuit.com/cgi-bin/turbotax.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=170

You'd think that it would be in Intuit's own interest to ensure that people can point to its tech-support documents with a minimum of fuss. On the other hand, Intuit is far from the only company to commit this Web-design foul. If a store required you to memorize a map to find its customer-service desk, it would be shuttered within weeks. But on the Web, that's too often the standard procedure.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 26, 2007; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Gripes  
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