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OpenSEF breaking new ground for Joomla Users Print E-mail
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Written by Steve Graham   
Friday, 27 January 2006
OpenSEF SEF URL's for Joomla CMS

The OpenSEF team has recently announced the availability of OpenSEF 2.0 Release Candidate 2.

This is extremely exciting news for those of us who are focused on SEO friendly web development. We really want clean and easy to use sites that the search engines, and thus those who may be trying to find us, find easy to use and read.

SEF technology is opening the door, and its now up to us to walk through. Still a young technology as applied to Joomla/Mambo, its now time to start planning and testing with an eye toward bringing this part of your web development cycle in line. Thanks to the team at we all just got a little closer, and the job got a little easier....

Lack of accessible SEF technology is one the largest stumbling blocks found on this path to Search Engine optimization. SEF (Search Engine Friendly) technology provides methods for creating links to web pages that tend to reflect the content of that page.

For example, what can you tell about the linked article with URL like this one?:

It looks like a line of gibberish to most common web surfers and to a search engine, its even worse. The '?' and '&' in this URL tell search engines that this is a dynamic page, created by an HTML query. Many are reluctant to cache and or rank a dynamic page, as there used to be a time when the contents of that page just weren't reliable enough to refer search engine users to. It might end up being different for the next person who views it....

Until very recently, this meant that websites that utilized active server scripting languages (like PHP, CGI, PERL, ASP, etc...) weren't given fair ranking in the popular search engine results.

Notable improvements were made.  The most popular method being encapsulating that query into what looked, to a search engine or any other browser, like a directory on a server. This is the method currently employed by both Joomla and Mambo to create SEF/SEO friendly URLs.  Using this encapsulation method, the first link now becomes:

Still not real friendly to a human, but much better for a search engine. To a browser or a search engine, this looks like a normal directory on any server. It does not have the characteristics of an HTML query, so they no longer treat it like one. But there is still one more missing piece that could help us to provide them with even more information about that page. We could add a filename at the end that resembles our headline.

Now that link could become: _ground.htm

Perfect. It looks like a static html page, it no longer has the HTML query characters, and it even has a word or two that the search engines can use to help create a keywords index. Doesn't it look more inviting, than the first and second? At least you have some brief clue as to what the article/page is about.

Enter Ken McDonald and Marko Schmuck, two creative PHP and web development gurus who are as displeased with standard Joomla/Mambo URLs as you may be. They were disappointed with the state of this technology in those two projects, and really wanted to put their energy and efforts into improving this area of CMS development.

An opportunity was presented when the developer for the uncompleted Xaneon extensions (a URL creating component) chose to abondon the project.  Xaneon extensions, not finished but well planned, was being abandoned so that t developer could pursue other projects. He had a great set of objectives, and clear goals, just no time to devote to its completion. Subject to discussions with Ken McDonald, he opted to contribute his work to the Open Source GNU/GPL world by donating his copyrights to the OpenSEF project.

Now Ken and Marko had a code base to start with, and it was good one that had been well framed, just needed to be finished (testing and recoding is about 80% of time required to develop most projects).

It had quirks that had not been worked out, and some parts of the application were just not completed, but it was a start. During this same period of time, Marko had been separately developing a project he called Core SEF. Core SEF was meant to be a direct file replacement for the sef.php file included with Joomla. It was not as flexible or well interfaced as the Xaneon project, but had solved some technical hurdles that Xaneon had not yet approached.

It was a marriage made in heaven. Xaneon (now OpenSEF) with its spectacular interface, its well thought out objectives and planning, combined with the advanced experience and technical resolution of Core SEF.

The list of features and capabilities it supports are tremendous, and it does it all without modifying any of the core Joomla files. Its just another component, albeit a tremendous one capable of resolving one of the most perplexing aspects of using an active server scripted content management system.

Take a few moments and wander over to and see for yourself what all the excitement is about. Or even better, try it out and see what it can do for your Joomla web site.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 28 January 2006 )
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