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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wikipedian on Nofollow Discussion

Mathias Schindler, board member of the Wikimedia Germany association, reacts on recent accusations that Wikipedia doesn’t “nofollow” certain links to their own properties, like, while nofollowing links to competitors, like (HTML’ified, my emphasis):

back in the early days of Wikipedia, there was a tool for building up short links to other wikis by using that pattern:

[[:foo:bar]], a link to the page “bar” at the foo-wiki. (called: interwikilinks)

We are using this for linking other language editions of wikipedia ( e.g. [[:en:FooBar]] ).

2004, MediaWiki introduced templates and later parameters. If you prepare a template Foo, you can link to page Bar via {{foo:bar}}. Same size, same complexity. The old system is now more or less outdated when it comes to external links.

In 2005, we joined the initiative on the nofollow-link. External web links are by default given the nofollow tag. We did not add the nofollow tag to interwikilinks. interwikilinks on that list are currently not receiving nofollow-tags. One of these 350 sites is Wikia.

Personally, I don’t really like that nofollow tag. I am unable to say if this tool prevents Wikipedia from getting link spam. The feature that is needed would be something to enable us to have something like an “reverse link rot”. If an external web link stays in a site for more than X weeks/days/hours or more than Y edits by Z different authors, the nofollow tag gets removed. In case someone speaks PHP, please join us and help developing a software solution for this.

In theory, all the external web links on a given site should be the best the web has to offer on a given subject.

OTOH, Wikipedia is a project to write an encyclopedia, not a link farm or a SEO playground. The target audience of Wikipedia are human people. Their ability to follow the web links on is totally unaffected by the nofollow tag.

[Thanks Tadeusz and Mathias!]

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