I often write raw URLs when mentioning a site. Example:

You can see the latest at: http://this_is_the_latest.com/

instead of:

You can see the latest here

My reasoning:

  • This more closely resembles how traditional publishing references sources.

  • If someone prints the page or views it in a non-browser (eg, screenshot), no information is lost.

  • It violates the principle that things should be published in the simplest format possible to make it accessible to the largest number of people.

However, whenever I do that on stackexchange sites, someone edits my post to have a hyperlink.

Is this a general stack rule, open for discussion, or ???

Here is my sample use case:

  • A popular question has many answers (and comments), each with 5-10 links each.

  • The linktexts read something like "Sugar fried in lard is a healthy snack".

  • I don't want to hover over every single link to see which ones have good sources and which ones don't. Or, if I've printed this for offline reading (maybe just on my Kindle), I can't see where each link goes.

  • Instead, I want to see "Sugar fried in lard is a healthy snack (http://lard-and-sugar-growers.com/)" or "Sugar fried in lard is a healty snack (http://health.gov/lard)".

  • I claim that seeing these URLs without hovering helps me filter through the answers I want to read.

  • I won't vindictively downvote answers with unreliable sources (if offline, I can't do this), but I will focus on answers with good sources.

  • Having to hover over each link is an inefficient way to see which links are reliable and which are not.

  • Providing the raw URL tells me not only what is being said, but who is saying it.

  • 2
    So...you want to inconvenience thousands of web visitors for the benefit of a few oddballs that print out webpages?
    – Brad Mace
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:06
  • @BradMace I'd be OK with having both the link AND the written-out URL so that the greatest number of people could benefit. Besides, stack already hyperlinks raw URLs so no one loses.
    – user152261
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:20
  • 3
    If you use StackPrinter to print your posts, you'll get the links numbered and referenced with full URLs regardless.
    – Shog9
    Jan 25, 2013 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


To address your points:

HTML is not traditional publishing. We have access to a richer set of tools than traditional publishers have, and to not use those tools because of tradition seems foolish.

If someone prints the page or views it in a non-browser it shouldn't matter too much, as you shouldn't just be posting the link anyway.

Saying that it is or isn't the simplest form is somewhat misleading - it's all HTML, and people with, for instance, screen readers expect hyperlinks to be hyperlinks. Sure, you shouldn't have a link with "this" as its text, but not linking is also misleading (because linking is HTML's way of citing).

In your example, you might instead have something like the following:

You can see the latest at This is the Latest:

This is some quote or explanation of what you might see at This is the Latest

In summary: "this" is not good link text, but links should be links.

  • 1
    So, if someone prints the page and sees "visit 'the company website'" where 'the company website' is a hyperlink (which doesn't show up on the printed page), but no URL, it doesn't matter too much? I would have to disagree. I'd be OK with both hyperlinking AND printing the URL, but I do think writing out the raw URL has a benefit. Published material should "downgrade" gracefully: links for those who can use them, printed URLs for those who can't.
    – user152261
    Jan 25, 2013 at 2:57
  • I agree with @barrycarter on this. You can't print a link with text, and that will never change until we devise some crazy link-printer thing or something.
    – Doorknob
    Jan 25, 2013 at 2:59
  • 1
    @barrycarter Is that a situation that does/should arise on Stack Overflow? The company in question shouldn't be ambiguous from the text, and their website should be required to answer the question. If the person printed the answer to keep track of the company's website, they're doing it wrong.
    – Jeff
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:00
  • I'm thinking of a situation where someone is reading offline (they didn't look at the text online before "printing" it), but they have a different device that can access websites. EG, reading on the Amazon Kindle, but having wireless mode turned off. Clicking on a link won't even show you the link destination if the Kindle can't reach it.
    – user152261
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:04
  • @barrycarter In addition, two points: 1: If the person has access to the internet (to view the website) they have access to the internet (to view the question - you can find a question again reasonably easily if you have a screenshot of it...). 2: does anyone actually use SO like that? I mean, if so then all power to them, but if not this is kind of premature optimization...
    – Jeff
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:04
  • @barrycarter If they can't reach the link, what do they need it for?
    – Jeff
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:05
  • @Jeff I still read email in text, not HTML, using a text-based mail program (Alpine) and it is sort of a pain to look at the HTML version just to see the hyperlinks.
    – user152261
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:06
  • @barrycarter The point still stands - either you need to visit the hyperlink or you don't - I'm not seeing any reason to view hyperlinks unless you want to visit them. The only reason I can really think of is security issues on devices/browsers that won't show you hover-over destinations... Edit: actually, on any web-enabled system you can always open up the "edit" page to check the link if you're worried anyway.
    – Jeff
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:12
  • @Jeff I still think the presence of raw URLs can lend credence to an answer. Example: "As the Department of Human Services notes (something.gov), blah blah blah..." vs "As the Department of Human Services notes (unreliable-source-that-misquotes-or-misinterprets-something.gov)". Even without visiting the quoted URLs, it can tell me how seriously to take an answer (I realize that the author himself may misrepresent what a URL says, but that's a different issue). Sourcing is important. I can ignore answers with links to low quality sites even w/o visiting the low quality site.
    – user152261
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:25
  • @barrycarter Sourcing may be important, but ignoring someone's answer or downvoting it because they link to w3schools is lazy - they may have checked the text on that particular page and ensured that it is correct, then quoted it. Before you know it, the same information turns up on an extremely reputable site. SO answers don't (shouldn't) rely on authority figures or anything like that.
    – Jeff
    Jan 25, 2013 at 3:35

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