The dupe checker isn't finding one, so I don't feel quite so bad about asking this. If it is a dupe, please let me know; I'm happy to close it out.

I noticed a comment by random on a certain Meta post. I didn't notice the question ID of the question I was looking at, but I did notice (upon mousing over random's link) a title of "Where is your pony God now?"

I hate to admit this, but I was intrigued, as ponies are one of the memes here. So I opened it in a new tab and discovered that it was just TheTXI's answer for the same question. (Which I upvoted, then downvoted the accepted answer; I think for obvious reasons.)

So I tried a little experiment, and surfed to this link, which I just made up off the top of my head. Naturally, it goes to the same question.

So if the title isn't an intrinsic part of the URL (that is, something used by the system), why is it there? I understand why the system would ignore it -- we change these titles all the time, and it would totally break permalinking. But why is it there at all if it's impotent?

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Captcha when saving: DENOUNCES throgs –  John Rudy Sep 24 '09 at 3:56
    
Did you find him? –  random Sep 24 '09 at 4:29
    
Actually the link was pointing out an incorrect answer that deserved a downvote. Which was pointing to the same answer it was commenting on. –  random Sep 24 '09 at 4:30
    
@random: (first question) Yes, last night, since I didn't sleep too well and am now having insomnia-related hallucinations. My pony god told me that captchas are trying to eat my brain. :) –  John Rudy Sep 24 '09 at 11:34
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The title (with characters stripped) is in the URL to make it easier for people to read the full urls (Just by looking at the URL for this question you immediately know what it is about, because of the title).

Also, Google tends to favor pages that have the search terms in the URL over ones that don't. Therefore, it will bump them up a bit higher in the search results.

Because the title is only in the question purely for 'superficial' reasons, SE does not give it any importance in identifying the page that is requested. The question number (meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/23255) is all that is needed, so the rest is simply discarded. This has the... 'side effect' of users changing the URLS to questions when they link to it. I would assume that this has no effect on the Google results because of the use of the canonical tag.

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