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I've reviewed a lot of edits where people without edit privileges go around changing a question or answer to hide raw URLs, and there are some people who go on binges making such edits. For example (completely artificial):

You can find the Frobbits at, for example, http://frobbit.example.com/, and the download is easy.

This might be edited to:

You can find the Frobbits at, for example, link, and the download is easy.

Personally, I like seeing the URL text in the message unless the URL is long or non-mnemonic. I find the hiding of the URL unhelpful; I now have to hover my cursor over the link to find where it goes, instead of simply being able to read where the link is. (I certainly don't just click on the link without knowing where it is - or appears to be - going.) Top-level domains as in this example, or just a couple of levels down with semi-mnemonic naming (names that you might be expected to remember and retype) are helpful. Obviously, it is much less helpful if the text after the domain is all non-mnemonic gibberish:

You can find the Frobbits at, for example, http://www.example.com/aa9921/BZQ/xqjd?r=239a395123b91dfe?d=2011-05-31?t=09:00:00, and the download is easy.

That is not something I'd want to type again, and hiding that behind a well crafted link text is beneficial.

Quite a lot of the time, I reject edits like this, especially when the text of version with the hidden URL is clumsy like in the first example. It feels to me like it is subverting the intent of the author. If the author wanted the URL hidden, the text would probably read:

You can use Frobbits to do this job, and the download is easy.

So, being the curmudgeon that I am, I plan to continue rejecting poor quality, URL-hiding edits unless there are other more compelling changes made at the same time. Is this unreasonable?

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Be careful - clicking the "bare" http://www.example.com/ may not do what you expect... –  Shog9 May 31 '11 at 15:57
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@Shog: You're right. I was expecting a Rickroll and was shocked and horrified by what your link actually went to! –  Gabe May 31 '11 at 17:24
    
@Gabe: Yeah. It goes to a copyright infringement notice! The horror! –  Mechanical snail Sep 28 '12 at 6:43
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's not unreasonable to vote according to the direction you want the site to move in. I suspect others will disagree with your base desire, but if they didn't want this place run by us, they wouldn't give us the tools and power to accept or reject edits that we agree or disagree with.

So, while I might not agree with you in terms of whether those edits are acceptable or not, I fully agree with you using your accept/reject pending edits powers to make small adjustments in the direction the site is going in.

But since the title of the question is more specific:

Is it a good idea to hide naked URLs in questions and answers?

Yes. Readability and presentation are important. It's trivially easy to find out the URL of the link if one so desires in ways you describe as well as other ways. While I'm not going to go out of my way to "correct" people who just leave their URLs hanging out in the wind (and I do this quite frequently myself) I do generally think it's a good idea to hide them. This is, after all, the whole point of HTML. There's no hyper in the text if the link is outside the text.

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If the only edit in question is linkifying a word instead of having a bare URL then I agree with you. As long as this agenda isn't causing a rejection of other valid edits as well. –  Daniel DiPaolo May 31 '11 at 15:48
    
I'd be inclined to agree, unless the corrected text actually reads worse (as in Jonathan's example). –  Benjol Jun 1 '11 at 8:02
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I think that, for example, Support or Drupal support are better links than http://drupal.org/node/5. If you write a plain link to a question on a SE site, that link will be rendered using the question title as text: Is it a good idea to hide naked URLs in questions and answers?

As already shown by @Daniel DiPaolo, you cannot trust a plain link, as the link could take you to a different site; to verify where the link is taking you, you should hover it, and verify that the reported link is exactly the link of the page you would get.

Using the page title instead of generic words, such as link or here, is preferable. I don't think that using a plain link is preferable over using a link that shows the page title or a phrase that better describe the linked page, though. Imagine an answer containing a list of links as the following:

It is more helpful if the list of links is:

In the latter case, I am at least able of decide which page read first, once I checked the links are to websites I trust.

Similarly, compare the following two lists of links.

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Good point about the descriptive text being more useful than the URL in terms of understanding what you're about to see. –  Adam Davis May 31 '11 at 17:35
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The /node/258 type links definitely come under my non-mnemonic category, and should be hidden. The mnemonic ones are similar to the imaginary http://frobbits.example.com or the real http://sourceforge.net/projects/freemind/ where, if you know the project is called 'FreeMind' and it is hosted at Sourceforge, you can remember what you need. It can't be much more complex than that, though. –  Jonathan Leffler May 31 '11 at 18:18
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Like Adam, I agree that you have the right to your opinion on the issue and totally agree with the use of your pending edit votes to shape the site how you see best fit, I want to just state that I think it's not a bad thing to make bare URLs into descriptive text links (emphasis on descriptive because some of the edits I saw you reject recently do not fit this).

For one, most URLs these days are still quite ugly and the top level domain is really only informative if it's one that is well-recognized anyway. If someone was attempting to be deceptive, they could easily be devious and fake the URL in the link anyway:

http://microsoft.com/

So really if you're untrusting of URLs (which you should be), you would have to hover anyway. To me, a bare URL in text is at best a minor indicator of what could be a quality link, but the skeptic in me says "hovering will get me the best information I can have" regardless of what the text displays.

Of course, this can be worked around by using URL shrinkers/redirectors anyway, but I certainly wouldn't oppose anyone who would (suggest-)edit those into their actual URLs.

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