Often we are asked about how to use our Platforms using URL masking. We do not support URL masking and we do not recommend it. Many features will not work if URL masking is used.
What is URL masking?
URL masking, also known as cloaked URL forwarding, or link cloaking, uses your domain name to display My Community Directory, My Community Diary or Access My Health Care in your website in a different way.
When this is used, the domain points to a browser with a frame which shows one of the sites of the platforms within it. No matter which page you click on your website, the URL in your address bar stays the same. Your URL is cloaking or masking the real address of your website, which is the server that they are hosted on.
For example, if your URL is www.MyWebsite.com, and a user clicks away from your homepage to another page (such as your contact page), this does not change in your address bar. On a website with a properly hosted domain, the URL in your address bar would change with each page visited. So the contact page on your website would show as www.MyWebsite.com/contact/. Cloaked URLs are common with free web hosts, which let users build a site and select domains that are only pointed to pages with the frames mentioned above.
The website DomainRedirection.com.au uses a great metaphor when describing the difference between URL redirection and cloaked URL forwarding: “Cloaking and forwarding are a little like a redirection service you put on your mail when moving to a new house; whereas using nameservers is the actual address of your new premises.”
The dangers of URL masking: for site owners and site users
Having a masked URL poses issues for several reasons. First, site visitors are not able to see the direct addresses of the pages that they are visiting on a webpage, which means they are not able to bookmark or share specific sections of a website. If you have content that you would like your users to share and link back to, they are unable to because they do not have the actual URL for each page of your website.
If they try to log in they can not log in to My Community Directory or My Community Diary.
Cloaked URLs also have negative effects on a website’s search engine rankings. Because websites with masked URLs are hosted on servers with entirely different addresses, search engines will crawl them on those servers, rather than the domain that website owners or managers want them to be crawled on. Search engines are actively punishing websites with cloaked URLs because they are flagged for duplicate content. If you have two different sites serving exactly the same content (which is what it will look like if you’re using URL masking), then which one is authoritative? Which one is correct? Google will penalize sites with duplicate content.
For users, cloaked URLs also pose a security threat. URL masking can be used to create malicious websites that hide their real addresses from the users for nefarious purposes such as phishing or malware deployment. Even if a website owner has good intentions for using URL masking, it can also be prevented from working properly. It is also used for a practice called clickjacking, which has also been used to trick users into performing actions such as adding likes on social media sites or adding clicks on ads, none of which the user intended to do.
Because URL masking has generally been used for malicious activity, we have decided not to support it at Community Information Support Services
There are numerous other ways to link and integrate your website with My Community Directory and My Community Diary. Below are some examples of how our Members have successfully directed people to their sites and shared local information.
Western Downs Regional Council
Mackay Regional Council
Coffs Harbour City Council
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