ACAP: fixing what ain't broke

published Nov 21, 2006, last modified Jun 26, 2013

The article at piBlog » Blog Archive » ACAP: A way to make AJAX search-friendly? wants to spread the usage of a new protocol on the World Wide Web. This protocol, named ACAP, is supposed to be the cure of modern Web indexing problems.

It is not. ACAP brings nothing to the table that isn't already there and accessible for "content providers" (read: Web page owners). In theory, ACAP would solve two issues:

  1. AJAX-powered Web sites
  2. Caching on Web search engines as a method to "steal content"

The truth about AJAX and ACAP

Have an AJAX-powered Web site? Then you probably know search engines aren't indexing your site properly.

The crux of the issue is rather simple: hyperlinks that point to javascript: actions don't get followed by search engines. ACAP is advertised (on the aforementioned article) as a solution to this problem.

It's not the right one. The right solution is for Web site builders to build sites that take advantage of AJAX, but don't rely on it. This does not only benefit search engine users, but mobile users as well, since their devices usually can't handle heavy AJAX. Hey, I own a Palm T|X and I know what I'm talking about.

Forms should POST and GET to valid locations. Form results should generate entire pages, unless a special argument is passed to request JSON or XML results through an XMLHttpRequest object. Hyperlinks should point to real pages, and be trapped.

Modern Web building toolkits like Django and Ruby on Rails provide the facilities to make this kind of development seamless. In the face of a correctly built Web site, ACAP brings nothing new.

Content caching: the "root of all evil"?

ACAP is also advertised as a way to let search engines and Web sites broker over which contents they should cache. As a marketing strategy, ACAP thus appeals to Web site owners who fear reduced visits because of search engine caches, and owners who suddenly yank lots of content from the Web to place it behind a paywall.

Hello? If you fear search engine caches, you need to look no further than to the humble META tag called NOCACHE!

And if you wanted only search engines to index your content, you've always been able to do this! Your publishing engine should already include measures to detect user agents, and you can combine this with "known good" search engine crawler IP lists.

Again, indexing of well-authored pages has never been a problem. Evven for greedy Web site operators.

The wrapup

All in all, ACAP is bad. It brings new complexity to the already complex Web. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for fraudulent Web sites to manifest fraudulent content that the users won't find when they go to these sites. It should be stabbed in the back and left for dead.