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I spent about 20 minutes wrapping my head around this, and finally came to a solution but did not know why it worked. The important lines (as it relates to this question) in the apache configuration file looked like this:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{ENV:REDIRECT_STATUS} 200
RewriteRule ^ - [L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule ^$ /abc [L]

When I tried accessing http://example.com, the last rewriterule is skipped but what I do not understand is how is nothing a directory?

Based on the last three items from the way I see it, I'm checking to see if I'm requesting a file or a folder, and if not, then redirect nothing (aka the default page) to /abc.

It turns out here that RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d returns false because when I remove it and try again using the configuration shown below:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{ENV:REDIRECT_STATUS} 200
RewriteRule ^ - [L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteRule ^$ /abc [L]

the redirection then works.

Is there a reason as to why "nothing" counts as a directory? I don't want to fall into any more illogical traps like this as I update my website.

  • I read this and am not sure I understand why "nothing" counts as a directory except if example.com results in example.com/ which is totally normal and required. The URL is example.com and the URI is the path and file. If the URI is blank, the assumption is /. The browser adds the / URI if no URI exists. However, if example.com/abc is used, abc cannot be known to the browser and so it is passed where the server searches for the first match (directory) and a / is added. Is this what you are looking for?? – closetnoc Nov 21 '15 at 16:26
  • ok it makes sense. so nothing equals a / – Mike Nov 21 '15 at 19:49
  • Yeppers! I gotta type 6 more characters but by now I have overshot that by quite a bit. – closetnoc Nov 22 '15 at 0:32
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Becuase you are not checking that nothing is a directory, you are checking whether REQUEST_FILENAME is a directory (or not in this case).

Whilst the URL-path, that matches against the RewriteRule pattern, is nothing (after the directory-prefix is removed), the REQUEST_FILENAME (which contains the absolute filesystem path that the request maps to, ie. not a URL) will contain something like /home/username/public_html/ (depending on your config). This is a directory on the local filesystem, so the above RewriteCond evaluates to false.

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