Links that can't be shared

I've been doing a lot more Web browsing lately on my Android phone -- not because I'm too lazy to get out of bed, but because it's always on and always with me. And I've become increasingly annoyed at a practice that should have died years ago: links that can't be shared.

The first wave of unshareable links came at the dawn of the broadband era from simple Web apps like real estate listing services. Find a house? Want to show it to the spouse? No sharing for you! Unthinking programmers would stuff the important bits into a secret session variable or cookie, and the visible link wouldn't send you to the resource. This stupidity has been mostly stamped out.

But we're doing it again -- to mobile users. Today's unshareable links generally come from subpar mobile service vendors who don't bother to "twin" the URLs of the full-scale Web resources they duplicate.

Often when you visit a full-scale news site with a mobile Web browser, you get bounced to a special mobile site. This can be done in a way that delivers the right content to the user, but sloppy and unthinking developers don't bother. No sharing for you! Instead, you get a 404 page.

This is simple: Do it right, or don't bother having a mobile site.

Shared links have always been important, but in the last few years they've risen to surpass inbound search as traffic drivers for many sites. If you've ever watched a teen use the Internet, you should know where this is going: mobile Facebook. A link that doesn't work for a mobile users is worse than useless. You're burning a customer. Don't do it.