I'm looking for a tool that manages vanity url's for a single domain running on Apache (or IHS - IBM HTTP Server).

What i mean by vanity URL:

  • www.mycompany.com/ProjectA would redirect to servera.mycompany.com/whatever
  • www.mycompany.com/ProjectB would redirect to serverb.mycompany.com/another/directory
  • www.mycompany.com/FallCampaign would redirect to servera.mycompany.com/whatever/offer.html
  • etc etc

The current solution implemented consists of thousands of manually updated directories with php scripts which redirect the user. This has come a maintenance nightmare. Converting this solution to a solution using manually updated .htaccess file(s) is not an option either*.

Ideally, this tool would:

  • work for an apache / IHS web server
  • provide a web interface for users and administrators
  • allow users to create, delete and update vanity urls
  • allow users to specify case sensitivity, or case insensitivity for each vanity url
  • allow users to specify redirects as HTTP 301 (permanent) or HTTP 302 (temporary) for each vanity url
  • allows users to specify each vanity url as permanent (for products) or temporary with a 'take down' date (for marketing campaigns).
  • provide a work flow users to submit vanity url requests, and for others to approve it
  • (as a possible solution) write out a single, managed .htaccess file, provided that the file is validated by the tool prior to pushing them out to the server so that it does not negatively impact the server.
  • (as a possible solution) write out directories with redirects/.htaccess files, but would also manage creating, updating and deleting these directories.
  • possibly use a database backend, or a xml backend.
  • provide a solution that meets these critera in a manner i didn't think of.
  • (optional) provide very simple reports (number of permanent urls, number of temporary urls, upcoming temporary URLS's that are expiring, etc)

* using a single manually edited .htaccess file poses too much of a risk if an error is put into the file, could effect all urls. Multiple .htaccess files, located in directories is the same maintenance nightmare as using php redirects.

  • really? no takers?
    – Roy Rico
    Commented Sep 11, 2009 at 16:58
  • but I did vote you up, and favorited - to see if anyone can prove me wrong :)
    – warren
    Commented Sep 13, 2009 at 2:56

2 Answers 2


I don't know what exactly defines a "maintenance nightmare" in your book, but you could try to go with a dynamic rewriting map in apache:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteMap    vanity-map       prg:/path/to/vanity.pl
RewriteRule   ^/(.*)/(.*)$  /${vanity-map:$1}/$2

vanity.pl could could be a simple perl script (don't forget to set $| = 1;) which gets the first part of the request URL (as outlined above) on STDIN and is supposed to rewrite that - e.g. by querying a database.

Now, that just leaves the frontend. I'm an inexperienced Ruby on Rails programmer (it's just a spare time activity), but I think, if it doesn't need to look pretty, even I could write an application that authenticates a user, lets him create a rewriting and shows that up for approval to some IT guys/$WHATEVER in much less than a week, so I don't think any real programmer would have a problem doing that in a few hours. Depending on the database, there might even be frontends readily available which will do the job with only a little customization (php*admin comes to my mind).

This way, you get all the flexibility of a database approach paired with a central source for all redirections. As long as the database's index on the URL part fits in your servers memory, you won't even have to worry about performance.

  • This isn't exactly an out of the box solution that I can just take to management and implement overnight. Although, this looks like a really good solution if I had the time/approval to build it.
    – Roy Rico
    Commented Sep 15, 2009 at 19:07

I've only ever seen this done in the reverse. For example, webmail.domain.tld redirecting to domain.tld/squirrel.

I don't think you can do what you describe via DNS: once you move past the domain into the path, you've left the realm of what DNS handles.

You're sorta describing a URL shortener, like TinyURL. But that would involve the same maintenance headaches you've already described.

  • I'm not sure how I may have confused you, but i'm not looking to do anything with DNS, i'm looking for a tool that easily manages thousands of URLs and redirecting them... Apache already does this, but the implementation is done manually, making managing thousands of redirects a big issue.
    – Roy Rico
    Commented Sep 13, 2009 at 5:11
  • by calling it a 'service', I thought you were going for a DNS-level approach; so, does that mean you are looking for a tr.im-like service but that you can run internally?
    – warren
    Commented Sep 13, 2009 at 5:40

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