Wikipedia and nofollow

Tuesday 23 January 2007This is close to 17 years old. Be careful.

One of the techniques I mentioned off-hand in Stopping spambots with hashes and honeypots was to mark all out-going links with rel=”nofollow” to negate the search engine incentive to spammers putting links in your comments. Turns out Wikipedia has just turned this on for all their outgoing links (I think: the announcement was pretty terse, and actually makes it sound like a temporary measure).

When a small-time blogger does this for their comments, it’s no big deal. But when Wikipedia does it, it is a huge deal. Wikipedia is an 8000-pound gorilla in the Pagerank ecosystem. A change to how they treat their external links will make waves. Naturally people are debating the issue.

Aside from all of the web-societal implications, the debate is exposing some new ideas: Google Blogoscoped mentions the idea of a “fading nofollow”: links start with a nofollow attribute, and then over time, lose it. The idea is that spam links will be found and removed, and will not get a chance to age to the point that they lose the attribute. Over time, most links will lose the nofollow, so the site as a whole will contribute to the search engines rankings, while spam links won’t survive past their probationary period. Clever.


I don't think this will prevent spam links in Wikipedia at all. The spammers put links there for people to click, not for search engines. Most of the common blogging sofware such as Wordpress already include nofollow on all links, yet this doesn't stop them from being targeted by spammers.

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