A quick search for relative links and image references in my most volumous blog yields about 3000 hits. Switching them to absolute ones is one click away, but it’s no different the other way round: a simple search and replace for about 1700 hits of absolute paths. So which way should I go?
I don’t see myself moving domains in the foreseeable future, but for me relative paths do have the advantage of being shorter to write when making links and such by hand — that’s the reason for the (almost) 2:1 ratio of relative vs. absolute figures I mentioned. Therefore it’s likely I’ll keep using them even if I now switch the ones I’ve produced hitherto into absolute ones. So I’d have to do this change again at intervals, for all the new links.
But it’s the same if I went the other way: despite choosing to use relative paths I’d still occasionally pick up links local to my domain using copy and paste, resulting in absolute paths. Anyhow, I don’t think the occasional cleanup chore would be too troublesome either way to warrant not going through with unifying my policy at this point.
I probably would have gone relative already, if it didn’t hinder direct duplication of hypertext from one site to another. If you bring up the source code for what you see on a web page in order to copy it onto another as such, with links and all, you’ll find out it doesn’t work once the server changes. The relative paths have to be changed into absolute ones before it will.
I wouldn’t want my site to have that hindrance, because I find it highly annoying myself when duplicating material from places such as Wikipedia. From what I understand, they probably do this because it saves capacity on such a high-profile site. Yet others, worried for their material being exploited, do it for the precise purpose of obstructing the free flow of information.
I have neither of those concerns, so going absolute doesn’t pose problems — apart from being cumbersome to use, when crafting markup manually, as I usually like to do. So both ways have very strong arguments going for and against them.
I’d like to have a policy I could stick to, because having to stop and wonder about the practice used in each link I write irks me. From a practical point of view however, the mixed solution I’ve used in the past seems like the most natural and sensible one: to let the circumstances pick the practice in each case. Nevermind the ideal of adhering to a strict policy.