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The Apache HTTP Server Reference Manual
by Apache Software Foundation
Paperback (6"x9"), 862 pages
ISBN 9781906966034
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5.5  URL Rewriting Guide

This section supplements the mod_rewrite reference documentation (p. 826). It describes how one can use Apache’s mod_rewrite to solve typical URL-based problems with which webmasters are commonly confronted. We give detailed descriptions on how to solve each problem by configuring URL rewriting rulesets.

ATTENTION: Depending on your server configuration it may be necessary to slightly change the examples for your situation, e.g. adding the [PT] flag when additionally using mod_alias and mod_userdir, etc. Or rewriting a ruleset to fit in .htaccess context instead of per-server context. Always try to understand what a particular ruleset really does before you use it. This avoids many problems.

See also:

5.5.1  Canonical URLs

Description:

On some webservers there are more than one URL for a resource. Usually there are canonical URLs (which should be actually used and distributed) and those which are just shortcuts, internal ones, etc. Independent of which URL the user supplied with the request he should finally see the canonical one only.

Solution:

We do an external HTTP redirect for all non-canonical URLs to fix them in the location view of the Browser and for all subsequent requests. In the example ruleset below we replace /~user by the canonical /u/user and fix a missing trailing slash for /u/user.

RewriteRule ^/~([^/]+)/?(.*) /u/$1/$2 [R]  
RewriteRule ^/u/([^/]+)$ /$1/$2/ [R]

5.5.2  Canonical Hostnames

Description:

The goal of this rule is to force the use of a particular hostname, in preference to other hostnames which may be used to reach the same site. For example, if you wish to force the use of www.example.com instead of example.com, you might use a variant of the following recipe.

Solution:

For sites running on a port other than 80:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.example\.com [NC]  
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^$  
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} !^80$  
RewriteRule ^/?(.*) http://www.example.com:  
                                 %{SERVER_PORT}/$1 [L,R,NE]

And for a site running on port 80

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.example\.com [NC]  
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^$  
RewriteRule ^/?(.*) http://www.example.com/$1 [L,R,NE]

5.5.3  Moved DocumentRoot

Description:

Usually the DocumentRoot of the webserver directly relates to the URL "/". But often this data is not really of top-level priority. For example, you may wish for visitors, on first entering a site, to go to a particular subdirectory /about/. This may be accomplished using the following ruleset:

Solution:

We redirect the URL / to /about/:

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteRule ^/$ /about/ [R]

Note that this can also be handled using the RedirectMatch directive:

RedirectMatch ^/$ http://example.com/e/www/

5.5.4  Trailing Slash Problem

Description:

The vast majority of "trailing slash" problems can be dealt with using the techniques discussed in the FAQ entry6 . However, occasionally, there is a need to use mod_rewrite to handle a case where a missing trailing slash causes a URL to fail. This can happen, for example, after a series of complex rewrite rules.

Solution:

The solution to this subtle problem is to let the server add the trailing slash automatically. To do this correctly we have to use an external redirect, so the browser correctly requests subsequent images etc. If we only did a internal rewrite, this would only work for the directory page, but would go wrong when any images are included into this page with relative URLs, because the browser would request an in-lined object. For instance, a request for image.gif in /~quux/foo/index.html would become /~quux/image.gif without the external redirect!

So, to do this trick we write:

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteBase /~quux/  
RewriteRule ^foo$ foo/ [R]

Alternately, you can put the following in a top-level .htaccess file in the content directory. But note that this creates some processing overhead.

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteBase /~quux/  
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d  
RewriteRule ^(.+[^/])$ $1/ [R]

5.5.5  Move Homedirs to Different Webserver

Description:

Many webmasters have asked for a solution to the following situation: They wanted to redirect just all homedirs on a webserver to another webserver. They usually need such things when establishing a newer webserver which will replace the old one over time.

Solution:

The solution is trivial with mod_rewrite. On the old webserver we just redirect all /~user/anypath URLs to http://newserver/~user/anypath.

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteRule ^/~(.+) http://newserver/~$1 [R,L]

5.5.6  Search pages in more than one directory

Description:

Sometimes it is necessary to let the webserver search for pages in more than one directory. Here MultiViews or other techniques cannot help.

Solution:

We program a explicit ruleset which searches for the files in the directories.

RewriteEngine on  
 
#   first try to find it in dir1/...  
#   ...and if found stop and be happy:  
RewriteCond /your/docroot/dir1/%{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f  
RewriteRule ^(.+) /your/docroot/dir1/$1 [L]  
 
#   second try to find it in dir2/...  
#   ...and if found stop and be happy:  
RewriteCond /your/docroot/dir2/%{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f  
RewriteRule ^(.+) /your/docroot/dir2/$1 [L]  
 
#   else go on for other Alias or ScriptAlias directives,  
#   etc.  
RewriteRule ^(.+) - [PT]

5.5.7  Set Environment Variables According To URL Parts

Description:

Perhaps you want to keep status information between requests and use the URL to encode it. But you don’t want to use a CGI wrapper for all pages just to strip out this information.

Solution:

We use a rewrite rule to strip out the status information and remember it via an environment variable which can be later dereferenced from within XSSI or CGI. This way a URL /foo/S=java/bar/ gets translated to /foo/bar/ and the environment variable named STATUS is set to the value "java".

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteRule ^(.*)/S=([^/]+)/(.*) $1/$3 [E=STATUS:$2]

5.5.8  Virtual User Hosts

Description:

Assume that you want to provide www.username.host.domain.com for the homepage of username via just DNS A records to the same machine and without any virtualhosts on this machine.

Solution:

For HTTP/1.0 requests there is no solution, but for HTTP/1.1 requests which contain a Host: HTTP header we can use the following ruleset to rewrite http://www.username.host.com/anypath internally to /home/username/anypath:

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.[^.]+\.host\.com$  
RewriteRule ^(.+) %{HTTP_HOST}$1 [C]  
RewriteRule ^www\.([^.]+)\.host\.com(.*) /home/$1$2

5.5.9  Redirect Homedirs For Foreigners

Description:

We want to redirect homedir URLs to another webserver www.somewhere.com when the requesting user does not stay in the local domain ourdomain.com. This is sometimes used in virtual host contexts.

Solution:

Just a rewrite condition:

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteCond %{REMOTE_HOST} !^.+\.ourdomain\.com$  
RewriteRule ^(/~.+) http://www.somewhere.com/$1 [R,L]

5.5.10  Redirecting Anchors

Description:

By default, redirecting to an HTML anchor doesn’t work, because mod_rewrite escapes the # character, turning it into %23. This, in turn, breaks the redirection.

Solution:

Use the [NE] flag on the RewriteRule. NE stands for No Escape.

5.5.11  Time-Dependent Rewriting

Description:

When tricks like time-dependent content should happen a lot of webmasters still use CGI scripts which do for instance redirects to specialized pages. How can it be done via mod_rewrite?

Solution:

There are a lot of variables named TIME_xxx for rewrite conditions. In conjunction with the special lexicographic comparison patterns <STRING, >STRING and =STRING we can do time-dependent redirects:

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteCond %{TIME_HOUR}%{TIME_MIN} >0700  
RewriteCond %{TIME_HOUR}%{TIME_MIN} <1900  
RewriteRule ^foo\.html$ foo.day.html  
RewriteRule ^foo\.html$ foo.night.html

This provides the content of foo.day.html under the URL foo.html from 07:00-19:00 and at the remaining time the contents of foo.night.html. Just a nice feature for a homepage…

5.5.12  Backward Compatibility for YYYY to XXXX migration

Description:

How can we make URLs backward compatible (still existing virtually) after migrating document.YYYY to document.XXXX, e.g. after translating a bunch of .html files to .phtml?

Solution:

We just rewrite the name to its basename and test for existence of the new extension. If it exists, we take that name, else we rewrite the URL to its original state.

#   backward compatibility ruleset for  
#   rewriting document.html to document.phtml  
#   when and only when document.phtml exists  
#   but no longer document.html  
RewriteEngine on  
RewriteBase /~quux/  
#   parse out basename, but remember the fact  
RewriteRule ^(.*)\.html$ $1 [C,E=WasHTML:yes]  
#   rewrite to document.phtml if exists  
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}.phtml -f  
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ $1.phtml [S=1]  
#   else reverse the previous basename cutout  
RewriteCond %{ENV:WasHTML} ^yes$  
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ $1.html

5.5.13  From Old to New (intern)

Description:

Assume we have recently renamed the page foo.html to bar.html and now want to provide the old URL for backward compatibility. Actually we want that users of the old URL even not recognize that the pages was renamed.

Solution:

We rewrite the old URL to the new one internally via the following rule:

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteBase /~quux/  
RewriteRule ^foo\.html$ bar.html

5.5.14  From Old to New (extern)

Description:

Assume again that we have recently renamed the page foo.html to bar.html and now want to provide the old URL for backward compatibility. But this time we want that the users of the old URL get hinted to the new one, i.e. their browser’s Location field should change, too.

Solution:

We force a HTTP redirect to the new URL which leads to a change of the browsers and thus the users view:

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteBase /~quux/  
RewriteRule ^foo\.html$ bar.html [R]

5.5.15  From Static to Dynamic

Description:

How can we transform a static page foo.html into a dynamic variant foo.cgi in a seamless way, i.e. without notice by the browser/user.

Solution:

We just rewrite the URL to the CGI-script and force the handler to be cgi-script so that it is executed as a CGI program. This way a request to /~quux/foo.html internally leads to the invocation of /~quux/foo.cgi.

RewriteEngine on  
RewriteBase /~quux/  
RewriteRule ^foo\.html$ foo.cgi [H=cgi-script]

5.5.16  Blocking of Robots

Description:

How can we block a really annoying robot from retrieving pages of a specific webarea? A /robots.txt file containing entries of the "Robot Exclusion Protocol" is typically not enough to get rid of such a robot.

Solution:

We use a ruleset which forbids the URLs of the webarea /~quux/foo/arc/ (perhaps a very deep directory indexed area where the robot traversal would create big server load). We have to make sure that we forbid access only to the particular robot, i.e. just forbidding the host where the robot runs is not enough. This would block users from this host, too. We accomplish this by also matching the User-Agent HTTP header information.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^NameOfBadRobot.*  
RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^123\.45\.67\.[8-9]$  
RewriteRule ^/~quux/foo/arc/.+ - [F]

5.5.17  Blocked Inline-Images

Description:

Assume we have under http://www.quux-corp.de/~quux/ some pages with inlined GIF graphics. These graphics are nice, so others directly incorporate them via hyperlinks to their pages. We don’t like this practice because it adds useless traffic to our server.

Solution:

While we cannot 100% protect the images from inclusion, we can at least restrict the cases where the browser sends a HTTP Referer header.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$  
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER}  
                    !^http://www.quux-corp.de/~quux/.*$ [NC]  
RewriteRule .*\.gif$ - [F]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$  
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.*/foo-with-gif\.html$  
RewriteRule ^inlined-in-foo\.gif$ - [F]

5.5.18  Proxy Deny

Description:

How can we forbid a certain host or even a user of a special host from using the Apache proxy?

Solution:

We first have to make sure mod_rewrite is below(!) mod_proxy in the Configuration file when compiling the Apache webserver. This way it gets called before mod_proxy. Then we configure the following for a host-dependent deny…

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_HOST} ^badhost\.mydomain\.com$  
RewriteRule !^http://[^/.]\.mydomain.com.* - [F]

…and this one for a user@host-dependent deny:

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_IDENT}@%{REMOTE_HOST}  
                            ^badguy@badhost\.mydomain\.com$  
RewriteRule !^http://[^/.]\.mydomain.com.* - [F]

5.5.19  External Rewriting Engine

Description:

A FAQ: How can we solve the FOO/BAR/QUUX/etc. problem? There seems no solution by the use of mod_rewrite

Solution:

Use an external RewriteMap, i.e. a program which acts like a RewriteMap. It is run once on startup of Apache receives the requested URLs on STDIN and has to put the resulting (usually rewritten) URL on STDOUT (same order!).

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

#!/path/to/perl  
 
#   disable buffered I/O which would lead  
#   to deadloops for the Apache server  
$| = 1;  
 
#   read URLs one per line from stdin and  
#   generate substitution URL on stdout  
while (<>) {  
    s|^foo/|bar/|;  
    print $_;  
}

This is a demonstration-only example and just rewrites all URLs /~quux/foo/ to /~quux/bar/. Actually you can program whatever you like. But notice that while such maps can be used also by an average user, only the system administrator can define it.

ISBN 9781906966034The Apache HTTP Server Reference ManualSee the print edition