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Could Stack Overflow be damaged by “URL poisoning”?

Friendly URLs for profiles is a nice feature, however, there are at least 2 drawbacks:

Attacks on reputation problem

Friendly URLs can open the door to malevolent attacks on someone's reputation (as in "real world reputation").

Imagine you have this profile URL:

A malevolent person could create a Google bomb attack with this kind of URL:

This URL is still valid for a SE site: it just redirects to "john-doe" for instance.

SEO problem

I have a dozen accounts opened on different SE sites, all linked to my SO account.

Googling for my name showed first a bunch of URLs pointing to my profiles on different SE sites (most of which I use very rarely), showing even before my SO and Linkedin profiles!

A month ago I decided to change my name to a pseudonym on these (rarely used) SE profiles, trying to mitigate the problem.

And it didn't gelp. Google still keeps those URLs on top - it must consider them as still valid (because they technically are).

Proposed solution

Disable the friendly URL feature on profiles, allowing only 2 possible ways to access a profile:

  1. http://something.stackexchange.com/users/[id]/john-doe
  2. http://something.stackexchange.com/users/[id]

where john-doe is the current name of the profile owner. Any other URL "friendling" would trigger a 404 response.

  • 2
    What if someone linked to my profile as /users/140548/rebecca-chernoff and then I change my display name to Rebecca? That's a broken link now. Mar 12, 2011 at 21:23
  • @Rebecca arguably, that could be solved by allowing header redirects for all past incarnations of that user's user name. But is the malicious angle truly a real-world problem? Does Google bombing still work the way it used to five years ago? I am not convinced.
    – Pekka
    Mar 12, 2011 at 21:34

1 Answer 1


I don't think the problem you describe is caused by the URL: a slug matching redirect is done before any page is shown. So, search engines first get a 301 Moved Permanently for the wrong URL, if applicable. A sane search engine has no need to store the wrong URL?

(Of course, explicitly describing the links like <a href="...">something here</a> is a different issue.)

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