[wp-hackers] Should Monthly Archive Pages ever return 404?

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at newclarity.net
Mon Mar 9 23:31:07 GMT 2009

"Casey Bisson" <casey.bisson at gmail.com> wrote:
> You have yet to explain what exactly is wrong (or 
> user un-friendly) with a 404 response.

It seems so intuitively obvious to me that it is unfriendly I guess I'm having trouble explaining it.

> The user friendly-ness of of a 404 is related to the content 
> you put on the page (which by default is minimal, I admit, but 
> you could easily add more). And if, as you suggested previously, 
> such a page were to include content from Twitter and other 
> services, then you could easily change the 404 behavior with 
> a plugin.

If it's easy, this is a non-issue.  I have yet to discover how.

"Mike Little" <mike at zed1.com> wrote:
> Actually 404 *is* an application level protocol response.

Point taken. Yes it is an "application level protocol" according to framers of the RFC so I misspoke. I was using the more colloquial use of the term meaning that HTTP is lower level compared to level at which most web developers and definitely end users operate. 

When the RFC framers used the term "application level protocol" they were referring to RESTful and HTTP RPC web service types of applications, NOT the higher level semantic behavior of a content management systems. Even so, the 404 response in a RESTful web app means "You Mr Client app made an error, follow your error handling procedure." If a RESTful web app were calling for the list of posts for a month the proper response shouldn't be "Mr Client you made an error", the proper response (in most cases IMO) should be "Here Mr Client is your list of posts, and that list is empty."

The more I look at this the more clear it becomes to me that 404 is just the wrong response for a validly formed URI request for a monthly archive. Even so, if I can fix it with a plugin I'll gladly do so rather than continue the debate.

-Mike Schinkel

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