Last Updated: February 25, 2016
· dziczkzw

Creating "vanity" URLs

I had to do this for a project website I was working on recently. We knew we wanted the user’s profile to be accesible by entering the www.url.com/username. This was, more or less, created automatically when the user created a profile. I brainstormed dozens of ideas, all of which were either not secure or overly complicated. Finally, the answer came to me: .htaccess and regular expressions.

Our server is Linux-based and runs Apache for the web server. Because we use Apache, we can use .htaccess…and it is a beautiful thing.

An .htaccess file is used for a number of reasons:

  • To redirect a user to File B when they try to access File A
  • Restrict/allow access to particular directories or files (with a little help from .htpasswd)
  • To beautify long, cryptic URLs

The way in which .htaccess accomplishes #3 is via modrewrite. Here us some more information regarding this Apache module. To enable modrewrite, add the following two lines to .htaccess file:

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on

For the sake of example, let us say that the PHP file that handles displaying a users profile is named profile.php. Furthermore, a username may be comprised of numbers, letters (upper and lower case), periods, hyphens and underscores. Adding the following rule:

RewriteRule ^([A-Za-z0-9\._\-]+)+[^\.php]$ profile.php?&uri=$0 [NC]

to the .htaccess file will rewrite http://www.url.com/username to http://www.url.com/profile.php?uri=username. An important note about the rewrite is that http://www.url.com/username is what is still displayed in the browser’s address bar. Thus, a vanity URL!

An explanation of the regular expression used in the rule is beyond the scope of this post. Read more about using regular expressions with mod_rewrite.

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Why does the regex end with "[^.php]"? It avoids strings ending any of the four characters? Do you mean to avoid matching ".php" suffix?

over 1 year ago ·

@hupili Great question. The point is to match urls like http://example.com/zak but not match urls like http://example.com/contact.php in case a PHP script was being access directly. My little article is about vanity urls for user profiles. If I wanted to clean up ALL of my urls, I would add another rule. :)

over 1 year ago ·
Ttus52sn normal

hello there, am trying to use this vanity url just like twitter/myusername so my index page that is index.php takes care of pulling the user profile help me out. please

over 1 year ago ·
Ttus52sn normal

here is the code am using code am using its working but not as a vanity url
it redirects users to http://www.thebusinessdrive.com/index.php/baxtelogs instead of

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.thebusinessdrive.com/index.php/$1 [NC]

please help me out with this issue

over 1 year ago ·