The way that URLs are sent in mail/news messages

You've come to this page because you've asked questions or made statements similar to the following:

This is the Frequently Given Answer to such questions and statements.

The appendix to RFC 1738 defines a syntax for URLs sent within "plain" text in messages, whereby a URL is preceded by the five characters <URL: and succeeded by the single character >. This is what you are seeing. In theory, either your Mail User Agent or News User Agent, or you yourself, can extract the URL thus encapsulated and use it to find the referenced object. And, indeed, if you are "clicking on" a URL in a message, your MUA/NUA is attempting to make it easy for you to do just this.


It is all too easy to encounter these problems in practice.

For example: This affects the URLs of Frequently Given Answer pages. The encapsulated URL <URL:> is 76 characters long. That is longer than some peoples' and some softwares' choices of word-wrap boundaries. People have experienced problems with the encapsulated URLs for Frequently Given Answer pages being mangled, when those encapsulated URLs have been quoted several levels deep within mail and news messages.

As such, the RFC 1738 encapsulation of URLs within "plain" text is only usable up to a point. For reliable encapsulation of URLs within messages, that is not subject to the vagaries of quoting and of word-wrapping, it is best to use a more appropriate format for the message, such as HTML.

© Copyright 2004-2004 Jonathan de Boyne Pollard. "Moral" rights asserted.
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