Wikipedia:Bare URLs

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A bare URL is a URL cited as a reference for some information in an article without any accompanying information about the linked page. In other words, it is just the text out of the URL bar of your browser copied and pasted into the Wiki text, inserted between the <ref> tags or simply provided as an external link, without title, author, date, or any of the usual information necessary for a bibliographic citation.

Note that some citation styles, such as the MLA style, use full bibliographic citation that happen to display the text of the URL in addition to proper identifying information, like the author, date, and title of the publication. These are not considered bare URLs.

What is a bare URL?[edit]

A bare URL is the URL with no other information about the source. The following bare URLs are examples of links that can rot:

These are not bare URLs. The first uses the optional {{cite web}} template, and the second is the same citation written out manually:

What is wrong with bare URLs?[edit]

Bare URLs are subject to link rot. The usability of a bare URL is entirely depending on the target WWW site retaining its chosen site structure, which it is under no obligation to do.

All of the following bare URL citations of the International Herald Tribune have "rotted" (stopped working), since The New York Times restructured the IHT '​s WWW site:

A full citation, in contrast, gives the author, title, publisher, publication, and date of the work. So, if the web site address changes, the additional information may assist in finding the new location. If the source is no longer available on the internet, then the additional information may assist in tracking down the source if it is in printed form, microfiche archives, article/paper collections, published as books, and the like.

This is a full citation of the first International Herald Tribune article, using the {{cite news}} template:

Notice that with the full information, it is still possible to retrieve the IHT article, via services such as LexisNexis, HighBeam Research, and others, even though the IHT '​s own WWW page was taken down.

Secondary problems with bare URLs are that—unless a readable text is used—they are ugly, and can affect the display of a page. For example, this bare URL with no readable text causes page widening:

The problem can be fixed using the form [long_URL readable_text]—note space character in middle separating URL from link label—as in the following example:

Helping to prevent future link rot[edit]

Most importantly, do not add bare URLs to articles—always create full citations with title, author, date, publisher, etc.

If you encounter an article with many bare URLs, you can help in one of two ways:

  • Tag the article's Reference section with {{cleanup-link rot}}. This displays a header requesting that the citations be expanded, and categorizes the article as needing cleanup, bringing it to the attention of other Wikipedians.
  • Even more helpful would be to expand the bare URLs into citations.

Before linkrot became a widespread and well-understood issue, many Wikipedia articles were created with bare URLs. To this day, inexperienced editors frequently cite sources by inserting bare URLs. We can all help to fix this problem. You can help by volunteering to expand bare URLs into proper citations, in articles which interest you, articles which are linked to them, or articles selected as random articles. If you notice an editor habitually adding bare URLs, leave a polite note on their talk page thanking them for adding URLs, but referring them to Wikipedia:Inline citations for clear examples of better, more complete inline citations.

See also[edit]