Consider the Redirect: A Missing Dimension of Wikipedia Research
Hill, Benjamin Mako
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A feature of most wikis, “redirects” are special pages that silently transport visitors to other pages. In Wikipedia, the only indication that one has visited a redirect is that the page title and the URL in the browser are different and a very small hyperlinked message appears near the article title (see Figure 1). Clicking on this link will take the user to the redirect page itself. Redirects in Wikipedia are normal pages that begin with “#redirect [[Target]]” where “Target” is the page to which visitors will be redirected. Although redirect pages can contain extensive text, their content is almost never viewed and very rarely edited. Despite their near-invisibility, redirects play an important role in shaping activity in Wikipedia. Redirects are a majority of all article pages in English Wikipedia and are viewed millions of times each month. They represent a central form of the encyclopedia’s “hidden order”  and contribute to wikis’ usability and user experience. That said, redirects have attracted very little attention from researchers studying Wikipedia and are, with rare exceptions (e.g., [3, 8]) rarely discussed explicitly in the analysis of Wikipedia data. In this note, we make several contributions: First, we introduce a longitudinal database that makes it easier to study redirects in English Wikipedia over time and use this database to characterize the enormous volume of activity around redirects. Then, we use the database to illustrate the importance of considering redirects in two relationships of central interest to many researchers: (1) the distribution of edits over articles and (2) the relationship between views and edits. We conclude with guidance for how researchers should account for redirects in future work.