What's the shebang/hashbang (#!) in Facebook and new Twitter URLs for?

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I've just noticed that the long, convoluted Facebook URLs that we're used to now look like this:


As far as I can recall, earlier this year it was just a normal URL-fragment-like string (starting with #), without the exclamation mark. But now it's a shebang or hashbang (#!), which I've previously only seen in shell scripts and Perl scripts.

The new Twitter URLs now also feature the #! symbols. A Twitter profile URL, for example, now looks like this:


Does #! now play some special role in URLs, like for a certain Ajax framework or something since the new Facebook and Twitter interfaces are now largely Ajaxified? Would using this in my URLs benefit my Web application in any way?



answered 8 years ago ceejayoz #1

This technique is now deprecated.

This used to tell Google how to index the page.


This technique has mostly been supplanted by the ability to use the JavaScript History API that was introduced alongside HTML5. For a URL like www.example.com/ajax.html#!key=value, Google will check the URL www.example.com/ajax.html?_escaped_fragment_=key=value to fetch a non-AJAX version of the contents.

answered 8 years ago raganwald #2

The octothorpe/number-sign/hashmark has a special significance in an URL, it normally identifies the name of a section of a document. The precise term is that the text following the hash is the anchor portion of an URL. If you use Wikipedia, you will see that most pages have a table of contents and you can jump to sections within the document with an anchor, such as:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing identifies the page and Early_computers_and_the_Turing_test is the anchor. The reason that Facebook and other Javascript-driven applications (like my own Wood & Stones) use anchors is that they want to make pages bookmarkable (as suggested by a comment on that answer) or support the back button without reloading the entire page from the server.

In order to support bookmarking and the back button, you need to change the URL. However, if you change the page portion (with something like window.location = 'http://raganwald.com';) to a different URL or without specifying an anchor, the browser will load the entire page from the URL. Try this in Firebug or Safari's Javascript console. Load http://minimal-github.gilesb.com/raganwald. Now in the Javascript console, type:

window.location = 'http://minimal-github.gilesb.com/raganwald';

You will see the page refresh from the server. Now type:

window.location = 'http://minimal-github.gilesb.com/raganwald#try_this';

Aha! No page refresh! Type:

window.location = 'http://minimal-github.gilesb.com/raganwald#and_this';

Still no refresh. Use the back button to see that these URLs are in the browser history. The browser notices that we are on the same page but just changing the anchor, so it doesn't reload. Thanks to this behaviour, we can have a single Javascript application that appears to the browser to be on one 'page' but to have many bookmarkable sections that respect the back button. The application must change the anchor when a user enters different 'states', and likewise if a user uses the back button or a bookmark or a link to load the application with an anchor included, the application must restore the appropriate state.

So there you have it: Anchors provide Javascript programmers with a mechanism for making bookmarkable, indexable, and back-button-friendly applications. This technique has a name: It is a Single Page Interface.

p.s. There is a fourth benefit to this technique: Loading page content through AJAX and then injecting it into the current DOM can be much faster than loading a new page. In addition to the speed increase, further tricks like loading certain portions in the background can be performed under the programmer's control.

p.p.s. Given all of that, the 'bang' or exclamation mark is a further hint to Google's web crawler that the exact same page can be loaded from the server at a slightly different URL. See Ajax Crawling. Another technique is to make each link point to a server-accessible URL and then use unobtrusive Javascript to change it into an SPI with an anchor.

Here's the key link again: The Single Page Interface Manifesto

answered 8 years ago Alan H. #3

I always assumed the ! just indicated that the hash fragment that followed corresponded to a URL, with ! taking the place of the site root or domain. It could be anything, in theory, but it seems the Google AJAX Crawling API likes it this way.

The hash, of course, just indicates that no real page reload is occurring, so yes, it’s for AJAX purposes. Edit: Raganwald does a lovely job explaining this in more detail.

answered 8 years ago jmarranz #4

First of all: I'm the author of the The Single Page Interface Manifesto cited by raganwald

As raganwald has explained very well, the most important aspect of the Single Page Interface (SPI) approach used in FaceBook and Twitter is the use of hash # in URLs

The character ! is added only for Google purposes, this notation is a Google "standard" for crawling web sites intensive on AJAX (in the extreme Single Page Interface web sites). When Google's crawler finds an URL with #! it knows that an alternative conventional URL exists providing the same page "state" but in this case on load time.

In spite of #! combination is very interesting for SEO, is only supported by Google (as far I know), with some JavaScript tricks you can build SPI web sites SEO compatible for any web crawler (Yahoo, Bing...).

The SPI Manifesto and demos do not use Google's format of ! in hashes, this notation could be easily added and SPI crawling could be even easier (UPDATE: now ! notation is used and remains compatible with other search engines).

Take a look to this tutorial, is an example of a simple ItsNat SPI site but you can pick some ideas for other frameworks, this example is SEO compatible for any web crawler.

The hard problem is to generate any (or selected) "AJAX page state" as plain HTML for SEO, in ItsNat is very easy and automatic, the same site is in the same time SPI or page based for SEO (or when JavaScript is disabled for accessibility). With other web frameworks you can ever follow the double site approach, one site is SPI based and another page based for SEO, for instance Twitter uses this "double site" technique.

answered 7 years ago Jeff Atwood #5

I would be very careful if you are considering adopting this hashbang convention.

Once you hashbang, you can’t go back. This is probably the stickiest issue. Ben’s post put forward the point that when pushState is more widely adopted then we can leave hashbangs behind and return to traditional URLs. Well, fact is, you can’t. Earlier I stated that URLs are forever, they get indexed and archived and generally kept around. To add to that, cool URLs don’t change. We don’t want to disconnect ourselves from all the valuable links to our content. If you’ve implemented hashbang URLs at any point then want to change them without breaking links the only way you can do it is by running some JavaScript on the root document of your domain. Forever. It’s in no way temporary, you are stuck with it.

You really want to use pushState instead of hashbangs, because making your URLs ugly and possibly broken -- forever -- is a colossal and permanent downside to hashbangs.

answered 6 years ago kingmaple #6

To have a good follow-up about all this, Twitter - one of the pioneers of hashbang URL's and single-page-interface - admitted that the hashbang system was slow in the long run and that they have actually started reversing the decision and returning to old-school links.

Article about this is here.

answered 1 year ago Matas Vaitkevicius #7

Answers above describe well why and how it is used on twitter and facebook, what I missed is explanation what # does by default...

On a 'normal' (not a single page application) you can do anchoring with hash to any element that has id by placing that elements id in url after hash #


(on Chrome) Click F12 or Rihgt Mouse and Inspect element

enter image description here

then take id="answer-10831233" and add to url like following


and you will get a link that jumps to that element on the page

What's the shebang/hashbang (#!) in Facebook and new Twitter URLs for?

By using # in a way described in the answers above you are introducing conflicting behaviour... although I wouldn't loose sleep over it... since Angular it became somewhat of a standard....

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