Zach Leatherman avatar Zach Leatherman

Trailing Slashes on URLs: Contentious or Settled?

Screenshot of “Trailing Slashes on URLs: Contentious or Settled?”

I have mixed feelings about URLs without an extension (.html for example) or a trailing slash. It certainly comes mostly from 25 years of unexpected behaviors with HTTP servers and other Web plumbering.

When there's none of these at the end of the URL, I don't know what it "is", it's disturbing.

I like how URL termination helps infer what the page type is:

  • There's a trailing slash? It's a folder, there are other contents "inside"/"below" it.
  • There's an .html extension? It's a page, a "leaf" in the site content "tree".

I disagree with Zach on the "Cool URIs Don’t Change" impact on extensions in URLs. Do we really think Web pages will use anything else than HTML in the future? I would agree for other extensions though, even if a good redictions strategy can help.

But on the server side, if I have an article with some illustrations or other content attached (CSS for this example), I like to keep these in a single place, which is naturaly a folder, and URLs to load/show these other contents should be relative to the main content one. I wan't to avoid the "Asset References" problem Zach lists in his article. Which leads to URLs with trailing slashes as the best URLs for contents, instead of an .html extension, as my guts would promote. Struggling with myself…

So be it, content URLs as folders, and so trailing slashes everywhere… 🤷‍♂️

I like then that an index.html file shows the content of a folder by convention[1].

Now that this is settled, it's important to know how our toolschain helps or prevent it, as Zach shows with the help of Sebastien Lorber's huge work on the topic.

From the tools I use nowadays for multiple sites:

  1. Remember that you should never let the web server list the actual files present in the folder on the file system![2] ↩︎

  2. By the way, make sure you read, understand and apply as much as possible Opquast's Web Quality Assurance Checklist. ↩︎

  3. It comes though with an issue: if you create source files / and folder/, they get the same permalink, which should be impossible. That's something you can change with a single option in Pack11ty, my Eleventy project template. ↩︎

  1. I still don't understand why using Cloudflare in front of Netlify allows for a much better and stable Time To First Byte (TTFB) than Cloudflare Pages or Netlify alone… 🤷‍♂️

    SpeedCurve graph with Time To First Byte for the 3 hosting solutions

    TTFB for static sites should always be very low.