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IFL - The "I'm Feeling Lucky" (Pseudo-)Protocol

"Link by What, not Where." (™, except not)

Ask yourself "Do I feel lucky?". Well, do ya, punk?
If so, you should immediately install one of these: IFL syntax pseudo-protocol for Windows (download) or for links.

Oh, you want to know what it does first? Ok. It enables your computer to understand some special keyword-based URLs (URIs?) like these, by effectively passing the keywords to google and hitting "I'm feeling lucky":

Nothing special about the examples, but you probably get the picture. The big thing to do with them is just use them in emails or general conversation, so you can refer to a good page you came across that you didn't bother to check the URL for.

Blatant self-promotion:
Mentioning might help if they haven't come across it before.

And in the spirit of credit where it's due, Mark Longair did the Windows implementation and Chris Lightfoot did the patch for links. I just came up with the idea.

The Problem with IFLs on webpages clearly demonstrated by the ifl:pigeons+mental+rotations link below. When I originally added the link, it went, as you'd expect, to a page about pigeons. Since then, however, this page has been indexed by google, with the result that if people search for "pigeons mental rotations", this page gets top ranking, since it mentions those words in that order in the ifl link (and now in this paragraph). So the ifl suddenly links back to itself. To get to the pigeon page now, you'll have to type the search terms into google and go to the second link. I don't know of a solution at the moment. It's not too bad a problem, since the main use isn't to put them on webpages anyway, and links to popular pages shouldn't suffer from that problem.

This Just In

(ifl:)Robust Hyperlinks got an Honorable Mention in the (ifl:)Google Programming Contest. This is very similar to IFL, and there's a (ifl:)Robust Signature Generator which can be used to generate ifl terms and check them. (Update 2008-10-07: Now moved to be part of the project).

This In Some Time Ago

Google themselves are using ifl-style links on their pages. Their "PigeonRank technology" page (ifl:pigeonrank) contains this text:

"PigeonRank's success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and its unique capacity to recognize objects regardless of spatial orientation."

The "spatial orientation" link goes to, which is the list of google's results for the search "pigeons mental rotations". Clearly what they needed was an "ifl:pigeons+mental+rotations" link.

You should bear in mind when using these that you should try to provide enough keywords that it will remain valid for a suitably long time. While something like ifl:dubya+sucks is likely to remain valid in general, it doesn't narrow it down well to a particular page. This can be tricky, which is why I think google should store good search terms with the first page it returns and display them next to links. I've suggested it to them twice, but they ignored me :-/ So I encourage anyone reading this to lobby on my behalf: