Should I slightly obscure links continually? Should I obscure long links? Should I obscure all links? Should editors be obscuring my links?

This is my first meta question here; the FAQs is well done, and everything has surely been asked before by now. If this has already been asked, please point me to it and close this question.


Any time I have existed virtually in places around the web, it has been my nature to never obscure, hide, or put text over a link in any way, shape, or form. I would usually provide only a raw link unless that link was too long. When obscuring or shortening links I do everything I can to describe what I had obscured, so the user would not have any surprises.


"Editors" are obscuring my links - against my policy of obscuring links - but it is working out very well and makes the whole thing look better too. However it is against my nature to do this. Since the editor is known/shown, can I absolve myself for using this practice, and continue to enjoy the great job of editing that has been done thus far?

Jump links

I usually avoid even using TinyUrl which was (and maybe still is) a "safe" way of linking.

There is also the issue of bad jump links - a site goes out of business, and instead of the original location, following the link jumps you to scum.

Not my problem

Anyone on the web today should be looking where they are going, and I assume every browser that exists can show where you're going when hovering over a link. There is no excuse for a user wildly clicking on links without knowing. However in reality I have done it, and I am sure others have too. If we also include non-super users, then the link is slightly obscured.

The web is "just another dead link"

Dead links, dead sites, old data, and bought out by scum. It is not rare to have a legitimate good quality site go bad: one day you're downloading legitimate programs from them, and a year later they have inserted adware in them, or some other undesirable traits. Links do not last for a long time generally, and what might be secure one day is no longer secure on the next. The web is full of dead links; how does having the full link visible without hover assist users?

Side notes

I usually have very heavy filtering and blocking in my browser, so like other users here, I can walk on the web without getting stuck in it. I hope I do not ever hand a person a link that sends them to a location that I would not visit myself if I had known.


2 Answers 2


Can you tell me where http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pMM4iwC-ag goes to?

Now, if I instead said it's YouTube — Queen - Somebody To Love, wouldn't that be more helpful to decide whether you want to go to the actual content provided by that link? You can still check the link in the bottom left corner; but don't worry if you have an up-to-date system, browser and a scanner...

As for dead links, that's why we ask users to include a summary in their post for when the link dies. Similarly, if the first link died you wouldn't have known that I meant to link a Queen song.

Of course, there will always be the uncertainty if this link is a Rick Roll or not, unless you memorize IDs or have a tool to request video titles by their link. But in general, links are not always right but we can do our effort to make them more readable to the reader in the sense of the content they will provide.

I think that you can also assume that links that point to spyware or loudly playing pornographic content will get edited out in a matter of time, or perhaps the post would even be flagged and deleted by a mod...

  • 1
    A very well done example , what we would expect from here. If that same link was in 120 other locations, the YouTube part would have been left off. Leaving the user to guess where it lands. Youtube could become pure virtual evil, and your link would still give me a clue.
    – Psycogeek
    Oct 8, 2011 at 10:21

I don't have much to add to Tom's answer. It sums up everything pretty well.

"Editors" are obscuring my links, which is against my policy of obscuring links

Nobody's deliberately obscuring your links. If I go ahead and shorten all your links with goo.gl or bit.ly, that's obscuring.

The web is full of dead links, how does having the full link visable without hover assist users

Give your readers context. If you link to an article that has the title "Foo Barring the Baz – Tips and Tricks", but the link itself is just http://example.com/post/10293176, giving the link a proper title gives the user some context about what to search, even if the link goes dead.

Well. It also makes the whole thing look better too

This is the whole point. Try to sell your answer. Make it pleasant to look at. It's not only about the content, it's also about how it looks. For example here:

First revision:

enter image description here

Last revision:

enter image description here

Which one visually looks "better"? Which one would be easier to parse?

I know we've talked on chat and that you weren't against my edits, and I really think you're contributing very well to the site. Keep it going and just think of your readers – give them something they can easily read.

  • I just remembered one more point, some sites I had info on, they changed the Code they used and transferred data over to the new code. thing got broken. That is probably another reason why I do many stupid looking things :-) Like Use little Askii text for drawings, try to avoid all formatting, and when I put pictures up I try and use my own server. Some of my posts from more than 10 years ago are readable, on the original site and archives, when other posts around it are messes of broken code now. (the posts are probably 99.8% outdated but exist) Yes I liked every edit you did so far.
    – Psycogeek
    Oct 8, 2011 at 14:18
  • 1
    @Psycogeek Concerning the images used: Stack Exchange has a contract with imgur, thus every image you upload using the internal uploader will always stay safe. I think you have some valid concerns regarding link-rot and broken stuff. Not a lot of people actually care about this, and I appreciate that you do. ASCII drawings are always nice, that's no problem at all!
    – slhck
    Oct 8, 2011 at 14:23
  • Yes, I would not care about it, I do not care about my own posts so much. The "web" in general is a most irritating place, when I finnaly find the real answer to a problem, and all of the links are dead, the pictures are Xed out, or no longer hosted. This week it was that a CNET download had gone from program to virus, with hundreds of 5 star reviews. I would leave my own trail of tears, if I had not felt the pain :-)
    – Psycogeek
    Oct 8, 2011 at 14:40

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