For a while now, web applications have been trying to obfuscate the URL, presumably because ordinary people can't deal with the concept of an address. Which is, of course, stupid because we deal with addresses all the time.

One possible reason for wanting to hide the URL is so they can hide the tracking shit they add to the end of it. For example, here's the basic URL for an Eventbrite page.


If you visit this, it works.

However, when that link was given to me in an email from Eventbrite, it looked like this:


Nothing that follows the ? is necessary for me to open the page. It adds nothing to my experience. All it does is tell Eventbrite, via their web analytics programme, who I am and where I came from.

I call this stuff "utm_cruft" after the UTM acronym that appears all over them. It stands for Urchin Tracking Module which is not at all creepy sounding.

When sharing a link with someone you can safely delete all that shit. It looks ugly, is confusing and doesn't add anything. The page will load perfectly fine.

That said, don't just delete everything you ever see after a question mark. The ? is actually a valid part of the URL which can be used for good when it's not being used for evil.

For example, a very basic Wordpress installation has URLs that look like this:


This won't load the myblog.com home page, but will load the post which has the ID "1234" in the database.

Here's a URL for the Wordpress editing interface:


This is asking photo-school.co.uk to run the post.php programme to load the post numbered 2085 so that we can edit it.

So the ? in this case is being used to send instructions to the programme. Very useful! (And potentially risky, of course).

Which means that if you want to remove all the utm_cruft you should be a little careful until you learn to spot its patterns. It tends to be added to the end and it always contains utm. And always test your "new" URL before sharing it!

But you can delete that shit, for your privacy, sanity and to keep the web clean.

Up next Media Diet for December through January Soooooo many box sets. Pictures from Dorian Gray
Latest posts Update your Feed Reader! This blog has been mothballed. Revising the 1972 Project Starmer has effectively introduced a Twitter policy We desperately need social media literacy or the fascists will win History is constantly being “erased”, and that’s OK. Last week a jigsaw saved my life Lost in Bluster Insomnia Journal 07 May 20 Stirchley Safari Whales on the Hudson Closing the Covid browser tabs Solving (a bit of) the Coronavirus from home Stopping A proposal to support independent businesses that cannot survive social distancing A modest proposal for slowing down cars Cross City Walks - the movie Good composition is ideologically fraught Short Reviews of Films Understanding Gilliam, and other men of a certain age Grace Lee’s talk: Diary, Discourse and Demonetisation Star Wars is Over (in a good way) Election notes How to read articles on websites that don’t want you to read their articles Uranium Club RIP Tom Spurgeon Introducing Notes, my new microblog Lindelof’s Watchmen, and the creative employment of corporate IP Eisenhower and the Hippies The Widelux, as used by Jeff Bridges Media with Edges Art-trip to Liverpool