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.

What is a bare URL?

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, you might be able to use this additional information to find the article elsewhere.

Here is an example of a bare URL:

Some text http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083 more text, displaying as
some text http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083 more text

Common variations of this include:

Some text<ref>http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083</ref> more text, displaying as
Some text[1] more text

Some text [http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083] more text, displaying as
Some text [1] more text

Some text [http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083 Nikon] more text, displaying as
Some text Nikon more text

All above examples use the same bare URL - it is just a URL with no accompanying information.

Contrast this with a citation using the ((cite web)) template:
((cite web|title=Answer ID 14083: D2X Firmware update 2.0.0 — Windows|publisher=Nikon USA Inc|accessdate=2009-05-09|work=Find Answers|date=2008|url=http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083)), displaying as
"Answer ID 14083: D2X Firmware update 2.0.0 — Windows". Find Answers. Nikon USA Inc. 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-09.

Note how much more information is available. Even if the link no longer works, you can see that it used to link to a web page containing some technical discussion revolving around a specific Nikon firmware update that might be obtainable through other means.

Here is a variation of this citation, typed in manually as:
[http://support.nikontech.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14083 "Answer ID 14083: D2X Firmware update 2.0.0 — Windows"]. ''Find Answers''. Nikon USA Inc. 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-09., also displaying as
"Answer ID 14083: D2X Firmware update 2.0.0 — Windows". Find Answers. Nikon USA Inc. 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-09.

However entered, this shows full information and is thus not a bare URL.

Note that 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.

What is wrong with bare URLs?

There is nothing wrong with adding bare URL references to Wikipedia. If you only have time and inclination to copy the reference URL you found, we thank you for your contribution!

That said, bare URLs are subject to link rot. The usability of a bare URL depends entirely on the target WWW site retaining its chosen site structure, though it is under no obligation to do so.

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 WWW 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:

The problem can be fixed, cosmetically, using the form:

(note the space separating URL from link label, here between "first" and "Useful"), which is used in the below example. However, future editors are again left with the challenge of repairing the citation, when the URL in this form of presentation dies (which makes the preceding full citation the preferred form of citation).

Such presentations are often fine for external links, and other non-citation URL entries.

Helping to prevent future link rot

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, and you suspect that editor doesn't know how to create more complete inline citations, 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.

See also

VisualEditor - Icon - Reference (inverse).svgThis user uses reFill to expand bare references.
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