The other day I came across this answer.

The accepted answer only provided a link, but the link was not working anymore. So for me, the answer was not helpful at all. This was even the accepted answer.

I did a quick downvote, was this a moral thing to do, or should I have left it as is?

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    This is exactly why it's a good practice to include a summary when you post a link. Answers with nothing but a dead link are pretty useless.
    – mmyers
    Dec 1, 2010 at 17:05
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    Upvoting/downvoting is mostly a matter of personal opinion: an upvote means "I like this answer", while a downvote means "I dislike this answer". Still, it's a good practice to suggest improvements to questions that need further clarification. Aug 23, 2013 at 15:47
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    An answer with a dead link is not useful, which meets the criteria "This answer is not useful". Dec 19, 2013 at 11:58

2 Answers 2


If a link-only answer was any good to begin with — which is suspect given the situation, but granting it was a good answer originally for this purpose — then no, it does not deserve a downvote. Instead it deserves an edit to fix the link. If you can't edit the post, add a comment to draw the author's attention to the post, and a flag for moderator deletion if that doesn't work.

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    And/or a comment to draw the problem to the attention of the user who supplied the answer. Dec 1, 2010 at 18:38

Joel is right that you should always try to fix/improve/edit problem content first. However, if that's not possible for whatever reason, absolutely go ahead and downvote. While you're at it, raise a flag, too. Link-only answers are prime candidates for rapid mod deletion even when the links aren't dead. (Do give a full explanation of what's going on, though, so that the mod who handles your flag doesn't convert the post into an equally useless comment.)

More to your point, having a high-scoring post that contains little or no useful information doesn't help anyone, and it makes the community seem... let's just say "less than trustworthy." Perhaps the downvote will even get the attention of the OP and lead to an edit.

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    A downvote usually works better than a comment to get the author's attention... optimal choice would be comment+downvote, otherwise you get these guys who are all like "Would the downvoter plz comment?!" and don't bother to fix their crappy link-only answer.
    – user159834
    May 25, 2012 at 17:15
  • Yeah, definitely, @WesleyMurch. I thought about saying that explicitly, but I figured my answer was long enough, and Joel already covered it.
    – Pops
    May 25, 2012 at 17:20

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