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StackOverflow contains a lot of MSDN links. MSDN creates quite a few links like the following:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/kxybs02x(v=VS.80).aspx

The portion in parenthesis should be removed when this is posted to StackOverflow. Generally, the latest version of the documentation should be shown in the link, rather than limiting things to Visual Studio 2005 era docs. That is, the above link should be emitted as:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/kxybs02x.aspx

The StackExchange engine already rewrites any Amazon links, presumably for advertising revenue (as I found out on a recent answer of mine ). Therefore, the mechanism for doing this already has to exist in the engine somewhere. I propose that the same method be used in order to fix these MSDN links, as they are almost certainly not what the author intends.

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2 Answers 2

I would disagree as i have seen one of those links break very recently on this site when the bit in brackets wasn't included. MSDN is massive and there may well be alot of it that doesn't conform to that rule. Pretty much every MSDN page does have an Other Versions link on it, along with all the related See Also links at the bottom, so it is no problem for someone to navigate around if they wish.

Removing the brackets automatically also means you remove the ability to point to a specific version of something on MSDN, this can make the answer inaccurate if newer versions of doco get posted.

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Can you provide an example of such a broken link? I've never seen one myself, and I prolifically link to MSDN. –  Cody Gray May 3 '11 at 7:54

I completely agree. I see people all the time, even regular contributors, posting links to MSDN without the parenthetical version specifier omitted. It often causes confusion, linking to an older version of the documentation. Yes, there is an "Other Versions" link at the top, but a lot of people don't notice that. Especially new programmers, those most likely to be asking the questions and referencing linked docs.

Jon Skeet's "Answering technical questions helpfully" specifically recommends removing this from links:

MSDN and JavaDoc documentation, or the equivalent for other platforms. With MSDN URLs, if they end in something like http://msdn.microsoft.om/foo(VS80).aspx, take the bit in brackets out of the URL (leaving http://msdn.microsoft.om/foo.aspx in this case). That way the link will always be to the most recent version of the documentation, and it doesn't give WMD as many problems either.

I've also seen these parentheses mess up markdown formatting for inline links. As the syntax is something like [Link Text](http://www.example.com), a closing parenthesis in the middle of the URL can cause the markdown engine to render the link incorrectly.

Sure, it can be fixed by editors, and I fix these links pretty regularly. But it would be much more convenient for everyone if this process could be automated. And it seems to me a pretty simple thing to automate.

I'm not sure what slugster is referring to; I've never seen those links break when the version wasn't included. I never include them in links in my own answers, and I've never had any reports of those links not working as expected.

You do lose the ability to link to a specific version, but that's easily noted in text surrounding the link. I think this is a small price to pay, considering how infrequently people want to link to a specific version of the documentation.

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it was this edit that i was referring to. Curiously it works now, before i adjusted the link it was getting a standard MSDN "we couldn't find your page" 404 page. I still think that with the enormous size of MSDN and its evolving nature we need to take this very cautiously, it would be easy to end up with a whole bunch of broken links. –  slugster May 3 '11 at 8:24
    
@slugster: That's because you changed the link from technet.microsoft.com to msdn.microsoft.com, not because you removed the version number. You also changed the link itself because the original pointed to a non-english version. Either or both of those operations could have broken the link (and indeed, removing just the version number doesn't cause any problems at all). –  Billy ONeal May 3 '11 at 8:36
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@slugster: In addition to what Billy said about changing it to Technet, I really don't get what happened. The original link was neither broken, nor did it contain a version number... As I understand it, this is pretty well a contract with MSDN. Regardless of the site, I don't think they're going to change it. Their own internal links are structured like this. –  Cody Gray May 3 '11 at 8:39
    
Oh wait -- you're right. I had it backwards. –  Billy ONeal May 3 '11 at 8:39

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