Wikipedia:External links/Amendment

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With the abundance of external links, and the increasing demand from outside websites that Wikipedia link to them, I want to propose that the following be added as a Wikipedia guideline for the English-language Wikipedia:

External links may be added to Wikipedia only if they meet one of the following criteria:

  1. They verify existing content in an article.
  2. It links to information that cannot be included in the article for reasons such as copyright, etc., such as full texts of copyrighted articles and speeches.
  3. It is a single direct link to the subject of the article.

All other links should be removed. Information that they contain should (and eventually will) be incorporated into the existing article. In the event of primary sources, preference will be given to those appearing on Wikisource, Commons, Wiktionary, Wikinews, and other open-source repositories, especially those under the Wikimedia Foundation umbrella.

This is subject to amendment based on the ensuing discussion. Danny 22:35, 6 May 2006 (UTC)

Comments[edit]

Support[edit]

  1. 'Obviously. I wrote the page. Danny 22:37, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
  2. I tentatively support this, or rather a final version of this proposal with the same spirit. A clear statement of what links are the acceptable ones will help editors keep unacceptable links out. silsor 23:09, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
  3. Support, but only if it's cleaned up. Maybe with a bit of work, it's a damned good plan. HawkerTyphoon 11:58, 14 May 2006 (UTC)
  4. Support: wording could be tweaked. Important characteristic - if the information can be included on Wikipedia, then don't link to it; add it to Wikipedia instead. - Amgine 18:09, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
    There is plenty of content that we simply can't put in a Wikipedia article (for various reasons; usually because of copyrights). The example I used below is George W. Bush; according to the proposed policy, we can't link to all his speeches, which I think is important to document (but we can't add the actual content to Wikipedia, as far as I know). EVula 20:54, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
  5. The spirit of this is well-founded, and close to the critera I already use in my brutal elimination of external links. - brenneman {L} 00:51, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
  6. I support the general idea, but opppose the current wording as too restrictive.

Oppose[edit]

  1. Disagree. I feel that although it's a very good idea to cull external links sections until they contain only a few links, there will always be special cases for certain articles, and to avoid having to limit oneself, I feel that a simple policy of "don't link to many external sites" would be better to have. —Michiel Sikma, 22:47, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
    Can you give an example of some of these special cases? I have a suspicion that a simple rule or two could cover all of them. silsor 23:06, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
  2. Disagree. The policy doesn't take into account the concept of "further reading", or extended discussions on some aspect of the topic that is important to someone researching the topic, but not necessarily targeted enough to include in the article directly. I give an example below. --Steve Rapaport 18:00, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
  3. Disagree for now. The policy is too restrictive as written. There are legitimate links that would be excluded under this policy as it stands. If the objections raised below are addressed I would support. ++Lar: t/c 18:07, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
  4. Disagree per Lar. Computerjoe's talk 19:10, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
  5. Disagree, there are some types of content that you can't directly link to in some websites, for instance, ones which are fully flash-created. Sub-sections of these websites sometimes literally cannot be linked to, they have to be navigated to from the main page, such as this one, which has sections in it which can't directly be linked to yet contain content somewhat instrumental to citing the Way of the Master] article. Homestarmy 19:06, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
  6. Oppose. This seems heavily restrictive, especially for articles who are best served by having an "overall" article here and then a more in-depth article on a subject-specific wiki; if there are three other relevant links, one of the four is just shit out of luck. EVula 19:15, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
  7. Oppose - Guideline is too unclear to be useful. Especially #3. -- backburner001 05:19, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
  8. Oppose - External links to useful content can be justified as further reading. One example: linking articles on Philosophy to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP)'s articles -- SEPs articles are generally good, but of course we can't duplicate them due to copyright... even if our articles are as good as or better than theirs (and for many articles, that is not right now the case), it is still useful to get a different perspective/choice of topics to address --SJK 07:04, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
  9. I don't agree with this proposal. This is a needless restriction on the types of sites we should link to. It seems to prohibit all community sites and sites with dynamic content from being external links. Rhobite 17:17, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
  10. Oppose - Too restrictive. Alex 23:16, 14 May 2006 (UTC)
  11. Oppose - Way too restrictive. -MrFizyx 04:28, 19 May 2006 (UTC)
  12. Oppose - Spammy links get deleted before too long anyway. I dont feel a rule giving a specific number of external links is appropriate. Some topics are bigger than others and the number of external links simply reflects that. But I dont really understand why the proposer feels having twenty links is in itself a problem. Surely its a good thing rather than bad (given quality control of course). Jameswilson 03:24, 20 May 2006 (UTC)
  13. Oppose Needless restrictions would occur. --Siva1979Talk to me 19:10, 20 May 2006 (UTC)
  14. Oppose as excessively restrictive. Spacepotato 04:14, 21 May 2006 (UTC)
  15. Oppose. Although we need to find ways to curtail the addition of too many external links, this proposal open a can of worm as some people will interpret it as "I cannot add coyrighted material to an article, so I will upload it to a blog or free hosted homepage, and then link it. Hurray!" No thanks. ≈ jossi ≈ t@ 23:25, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
  16. Oppose. This proposed policy would incorrectly mandate the removal of the external link from Patrick Stone (for example). Snottygobble 05:47, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
  17. Oppose. This proposal is too restrictive. Carl.bunderson 20:51, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
  18. Disagree. This proposal has some merit, but should be ammended to permit links of scope. These links would be sources of information with a much broader scope than could or should be included in the wikipedia articles. They would, of course, need to be relevant and reliable. Additionally, external links should have their main points rooted tracably to first, second, or thirdhand knowledge (eg: personal experience, surveys/interviews, or research). Short of knowing _if_ the author actually knows a topic, we need to know _how_ he or she knows. While it may be taken for granted that all respectable sources meet this requirement, any external links that do not should be removed. BitterGrey 21:01, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
  19. Oppose I want to agree because I think there are way too many links to external sites but I dont quite think your proposal is what i want.--Childzy (Talk|Contribs) 11:00, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
  20. Oppose as much too restrictive. True spam links are being removed now without such a policy. This proposal would lead to loss of many links which are genuinely relevant and valuable to readers. An excessively purist approach would lessen the utility of Wikipedia, which should be part of the Web community, not an exclusive off-shoot. -- JimR 11:06, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
  21. Strong Oppose. An overly restrictive, badly misguided proposal that would seriously weaken the utility of what is meant to be an internet reference drawing on the full power of the internet and that includes links. It is the kind of policy that would encourage self-important link nazis to rampage through articles, blindly or "brutally" eliminating links without any regard to quality or article improvement. Common sense should prevail, not this type of extremism. --JJay 13:43, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
  22. Swift 19:00, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Comment[edit]

  • The proposal is a response to what's a clear and existing problem; we're getting spammed and SEOed. I think it could be simplified by restricting links to references, and a specific number of allowable external links (perhaps 3?) If an article needs more than three external links, that's good evidence the article is not in-depth enough, and may need to either be expanded or additional, more-specific, articles created. - Amgine 23:04, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
Not disagreeing per se, but just playing devil's advocate: George W. Bush has 40 external links (not including the six other wiki links). A plethora of external links doesn't automatically mean that the article is wanting. EVula 01:50, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
  • Concur with Amgine. As for #2, "It links to information that cannot be included in the article for reasons such as copyright, etc.", we should make the distinction between "cannot"—material that will never reasonably be free, like many commercial sites—and will not, such as personal sites where the information *could* be on Wikipedia if the creator chose to release it; personal sites where the author does not wish to release under a free license but still wants our traffic... Mindspillage (spill yours?) 23:12, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
I think we agree on this. Content that cannot be included includes copyrighted texts, movie trailers, etc. It is legitimate to link to them. Content that could be on Wikipedia, except that individuals prefer to have the traffic to their own sites should not be included. Danny 23:23, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
  • Does "They verify existing content in an article" refer exclusively to the references for the content (which would then follow WP:RS), or to any link that can verify the information? In particular, is it meant to prohibit links that provide further information on the topic which may lie outside of Wikipedia's scope (and which may not be useful as references)? Kirill Lokshin 23:42, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
Yes, please provide an example of something that lies outside of Wikipedia's scope. Danny 23:44, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
There are probably better examples; but, off the top of my head: detailed plot summaries of fictional works have generally been kept off-site. Kirill Lokshin 23:53, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
This is not the case. Look at our articles about books and films, particularly well-known ones. They often have detailed plot summaries. Danny 23:56, 6 May 2006 (UTC)
There are those that argue that every possible non canon Star Wars character does not deserve their own article, or even a mention on a list, where wookiepedia might give them a whole article. The argument then would be that linking to wookiepedia is appropriate from the proper article here. I don't think you want to be quoted as saying that everything has a place here, we have a lot of listcruft and fancruft as it is... ++Lar: t/c 00:11, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
(after edit conflict) I meant ones more detailed than what we have ;-)
In general though, there's a certain level of detail that has been farmed out to places like Memory Alpha, with the idea that it could be linked to where appropriate; something which a policy like this seems to prevent. Does this mean that we ought to be more exhaustive in providing detailed information locally? Kirill Lokshin 00:12, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
That's it exactly. I think WP would be well served by an article on minor Star Trek characters with many links to Memory Alpha, instead of a lot of content across separate articles on characters which are too minor to survive an AfD here. ++Lar: t/c 16:22, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
  • In my opinion, if you need multiple external links on an article, than either (a) the article needs to be expanded with the content that is located at the external links or (b) content needs to be created either on Wikipedia or on another Wikimedia project to be used in lieu of that external content. Kelly Martin (talk) 00:14, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

I think some examples might help here. The article abc notation doesn't have a problem with external links, as far as I know. The external links it does have are:

  • three in-text links to the official sites of three different implementations of Abc notation for Wikis
  • A link to the offical site
  • A link to one of the best-known search engines for abc notation files
  • A link to the semi-offical tutorial on abc notation
  • Something called the "ABC Convert-A-Matic", which I've also seen well-linked on the offical site
  • Two SourceForge project links

I'm pretty sure that all of these links benefit readers of the article, and should stay in. How would this proposal deal with such links as the ones I mentioned above? JesseW, the juggling janitor 01:03, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

Just a guess, but the tutorial and the official site would likely be primary references for the article and would not need an additional external link. The search engine provides a service an encyclopedia should not. I'm not sure that it would be NPOV to link to specific clients for ABC, and WP is not a link farm either, so the projects and client should probably not be linked from Wikipedia. That means the ABC article would have one external link under this policy, plus however many links in the references. - Amgine 01:25, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
I would expand by pointing out that we probably should not link to specific clients; however, if one of those clients were notable enough to be mentioned in the encyclopedia itself, then the article on the client would justifiably have a link. Of course, links to articles IN the encyclopedia are not an issue. IMO, if the content isn't interesting enough to be in the encyclopedia, it's not interesting enough to be linked from it, either. Kelly Martin (talk) 01:43, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
As usual, I'm of two minds about that. If I'm a user interested in ABC and I come to WP to read more, tailing off at the end with "but we're not going to give you any recommended software packages, because that is passing judgement on one over the other, go google and decide for yourself" is technically correct, but not very helpful. If there were some way to source recommendations so that it's the (notable in its own right) site makeing the recommendations that we're sourcing, and we're not saying what is better or worse ourselves, that would be nice. But that's far afield of this proposal's scope. ++Lar: t/c 16:22, 7 May 2006 (UTC)


  • As another example, an already probably too-large article on the topic of Diabetes_in_cats_and_dogs includes four external links sections: General Information, Specific Topics, Inducing Remission in Cats, and Communities and Forums. Of these four, Danny's proposed rule would eliminate any of the first three that didn't directly support a point made in the article (and therefore remove lots of excellent references for researchers), and completely remove the fourth section (probably the intent of the rule, but I think these community references rather useful -- they're often more up-to-date than any available veterinary info online). A rewrite of the article that might include enough points and references to keep all the valuable links under Specific Topics and Remission, would make the article too large. But the information (even the forum links) are valuable and could save the lives of many creatures. --Steve Rapaport 18:00, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
The amount of information available makes me believe Feline diabetes remmission should be a daughter article. And perhaps also a Feline nutrition article that deals with general diet as well as a section on diabetic cats. As far as the forums, if they really have the most useful information you should be able to cite some the best posts within them for and allow a link in that manner. Another option is a split for Canine diabetes and Feline diabetes --Birgitte§β ʈ Talk 18:11, 7 May 2006 (UTC)
  • It would be better to treat external links the way WP:V does facts - state criteria that need to be met in order to keep a link in an article. (I'd rather see guidelines and policies written in the affirmative voice, whenever possible.) It would be simple enough to do this with the three criteria presently stated. I also suggest that #1 "verify information" be changed to "are part of a properly cited reference". #3, the direct links to subject needs a bit of loosening also - strictly interpreted, for any biography article, you can't have a direct link to the subject, but you could to their own webpage, or a webpage for their official role, or.... And it shouldn't be just a single link either. To take the George H. W. Bush example, there might be links for him as President, as Governor of Texas, for his Presidential Library, etc... This ought to be one per substantive section, but if there is a main article for a section, the external link should be in the main article rather than in the summary section. Finally, rather than saying "all other links should be removed", say "If a link is removed, it is the responsibility of anyone that disagrees to show how it enhances the encyclopedia under one of the above criteria." Finally, I disagree that we should give prefence to primary sources on a wiki. No wiki that adheres to WP:OR or an equivalent is ever going to be a primary source, it is at best a secondary source. To take an example from genealogy - an index to a scanned/microfilmed document is a tertiary source, the scanned/microfilmed document is a secondary source, and only the original paper document is a primary source. GRBerry 02:13, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
  • Another example of data not appropriate here, but not meeting current test. The U.S. Geological Service maintains flow gages on many rivers in the U.S., and has web pages where real time water flow conditions in the river can be accessed. As U.S. government originated webpages, the content is public domain. But as real time data, it is not appropriate here. Real time condition links are another category of information that cannot be included in the article. GRBerry 02:13, 12 May 2006 (UTC)


  • Comment I would like this policy to look at the difference between External Links and Futher Reading, which I think has been touched on further up this discussion. For a media event, such as the Eurovision Song Contest a multitude of fan sites and forums are added to the external links/see also sections, most of which could be deleted for merely turning the article into a portal for web addresses. However some articles on the history of political parties or a famous figure have "Further Reading" lists which could enhance an article without treading on the eggshells of copyright.
I support any idea to cut back on external links but would like to hope Wiki could assist other internet (and non-internet) sources by continuing to support Futher Reading sections. doktorb | words 10:37, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
  • Comment: The major problem, as I see it, is that Wikipedia is at risk of turning into a giant bookmark file. While we have policies and guidelines for outright spam and commercialism, it's a lot harder when it comes to links to related content. Just forbidding all of them isn't really right -- it omits resources that can be used for further reading as well as further (non-original) research for the article. Putting an arbitrary limit ("No more than 5 external links") just means the first five people who add their favorite bookmark get lucky. Hmmmmm. --DragonHawk 15:29, 25 July 2006 (UTC)
  • Comment: I think it's the word only on the top that's gonna cause this proposal to get flushed down the toilet...
    • Maybe there could be a list of possible criteria to exclude external links, but this will generally include some POV (or is it common sense?) I think: some people seem to have more strict standards than others around here.
    • Another option is this: for example on articles about diseases, create a list of very highly regarded sources, and then use as a criterium that other external links should at least add something further to the issue... That would like kill off 50% of the problem in medical articles, where I'm contributing.--Steven Fruitsmaak | Talk 01:01, 4 August 2006 (UTC)