|This page in a nutshell: Simply copying and pasting the URL of an online reference is not ideal, exposing the reference to linkrot. It is preferable to use proper citation templates when citing sources.|
A bare URL is a URL cited as a reference for some information in an article without any accompanying information about the linked page. In other words, it is just the text out of the URL bar of a web browser copied and pasted into the Wiki text, inserted between <ref></ref> tags or simply provided as an external link, without title, author, date, or any of the usual information necessary for a bibliographic citation or helping to fix external links that no longer work because the linked web pages or complete websites disappear, change their content, or move without HTML redirection—so-called link rot.
A bare URL is the URL with no other information about the source. If a URL is accompanied by any other information, it is not considered bare.
In this context, information refers to data that are useful to build a bibliographic citation and/or help fix link rot. Examples include the title of the destination page, the date it was published, its author and so on. Even if the link goes dead, one might be able to use this additional information to find the article elsewhere.
Here are some examples of bare URLs:
|Wikitext||What the reader sees|
||Some text http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083 more text|
||Some text more text
||Some text  more text|
||Some text Nikon more text|
All of the above examples use the same bare URL – it is just a URL with no accompanying information. The word "Nikon" as displayed text adds no info beyond what is displayed in the URL; displaying only "Nikon" or a number actually gives the reader less info than the raw URL.
|Type||Wikitext||What the reader sees|
||Some text more text
||Some text more text
||"Answer ID 14083: D2X Firmware update 2.0.0 — Windows" from Nikon|
||"Answer ID 14083: D2X Firmware update 2.0.0 — Windows." ''Find Answers''. Nikon USA, Inc., 2008. http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083/.|
It shows much more information about the article. Even if the link no longer works, one can see that it previously linked to a web page containing some technical discussion revolving around a specific Nikon firmware update that might be obtainable through other means.
Wikipedia:Citation templates are popular but not required. Any method showing more information than is present in the URL itself is not a bare URL. Full citations are preferred, but even an incomplete citation is not necessarily a bare URL. Some citation styles, such as the MLA style, use full bibliographic citation that happen to display the text of the URL in addition to proper identifying information, like the author, date, and title of the publication. These are not considered bare URLs.
Adding a bare URL reference to Wikipedia is much more helpful than no reference. If you only have time and inclination to copy the reference URL you found, that is a helpful first step, and we thank you for your contribution!
However, please note that a bare URL reference is also much less helpful than a fully-formatted citation. Please help readers and editors by using full citations instead.
A bare URL is much less helpful than a full citation:
Bare URLs are most easily filled by the editor who adds the URL as a reference. That editor has read the webpage, and therefore has all the details in front of them. An editor citing any source should assess it to check that is a reliable source, so they should have checked issue such as article title, date, author(s), publisher, page number, etc.
By contrast, another editor coming later to fill the reference has to start from the beginning and replicate all that work ... and by the time they read the webpage, its contents may have been changed or even been replaced with something completely different.
All of the following bare URL citations of the International Herald Tribune have "rotted" (stopped working), since The New York Times restructured the IHT's web site:
A full citation, in contrast, gives the author, title, publisher, publication, and date of the work. So, if the web site address changes, the additional information may assist in finding the new location. If the source is no longer available on the internet, then the additional information may assist in tracking down the source if it is in printed form, microfiche archives, article/paper collections, published as books, and the like.
This is a full citation of the first International Herald Tribune article, using the ((cite news)) template:
Notice that with the full information that appeared in the citation before the URL died, it was possible to retrieve the IHT article via Web.Archive.org (which we did here, to add the archived URL), but also via LexisNexis, HighBeam Research, and others (even though the IHT's own webpage is no longer active).
Secondary problems with bare URLs are that—unless a readable text is used—they are ugly, and can affect the display of a page. For example, this bare URL with no readable text causes page widening:
Please consider supplementing your bare URLs—creating full citations with title, author, date, publisher, etc.
If you encounter an article with many bare URLs, you can help in one of three ways:
Before linkrot became a widespread and well-understood issue, many Wikipedia articles were created with bare URLs. Even today editors frequently cite sources by inserting bare URLs. While this is much better than leaving articles unsourced, it does expose the references to link rot.
We can all help to fix this problem. You can help by volunteering to expand bare URLs into proper citations, in articles which interest you, articles which are linked to them, or articles selected as random articles. If you notice an editor habitually adding bare URLs, then please consider leaving a polite note on their talk page thanking them for adding URLs, but referring them to Wikipedia:Inline citations for clear examples of good practices.