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If you are reading this, that might mean that you have opened this question (or maybe previewing the question). If you have indeed opened this question, when you click on the question title it links you back here...

Why do sites like facebook, google and even stackexchange do this? What kind of impact does it have to the user experience?

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Considering I just did this in order to share another question, I thought I'd mention I used it for right-click -> copy link. It's a bit more accessible than the "link" anchor tag under the question as it's a bigger target. –  GotDibbs May 23 '12 at 1:48
    
I swear we had this same question...but for the life of me I can't find it –  Ben Brocka May 23 '12 at 2:10
    
I can't think of a good reason. Likely just an oversight. –  DA01 May 23 '12 at 2:49
    
@DA01: But there is a hover effect when you mouseover the title, so surely it must be intentional? –  F21 May 23 '12 at 3:15
    
Because you may arrive at this page from a link to a specific answer or even comment and by providing the title as a link you have an easy way to change to the "whole" page and possibly bookmark that instead of "just" an answer. –  Marjan Venema May 23 '12 at 8:06
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4 Answers

I can only talk for myself, as I am a great fan of that: Links to the pages themselve enable you to easily post them on Social Networks, Instant Messengers and E-Mails. URL often contain unnecessary parameters, or worse: sometimes even parameters that reveal personal information about you. That can pretty much suck when you post stuff in public Chats/Forums/Blogs.

Another thing is HTTP Post: especially when you are on such user-content-driven sites like Stackexchange, you often do POST-operations. Pressing F5 after a POST operation gives you this ugly and annoying browser window: "Do you really want to reload and post..?" If you accidentally click "OK", you posted your stuff twice with even more annoying consequences.

Fortunately a lot of Websites employ the POST-Redirect-GET-Scheme (or completely javascriptized posting) so on good pages like Stackexchange you don't have that problem.

Anyways, it makes navigation and sharing of User driven Web content much more predictable for the user. Meaning less stress and more fun.

(Sometimes I wished Google would provide links to their searches. Particularly after they introduced that instant search, rendering the browser URLs more or less useless. Pretty cumbersome when you are a fan of sharing hyperlinks.)

EDIT: last but not least: sometimes the URLs on top of the browser are not valid for an infinite amount of time. (cf. "Permalinks") And in the age of Web apps it becomes preferrable to not see your Address bar so often. On small screen devices the user may not want to see that extra waste of space as less often as possible.

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You can often reach a page via a link to a topic within the page (with an address with the '#' character in it e.g. http://www.site.com/pagelink#topiclink).

In some sites the address bar does not change when you visit internal pages.

In both of the above cases, if you want to send a link to the top of a specific page or bookmark it, then you need a link to the top of that page (in the first case you can edit the url yourself if you want).

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Typical users aren't going to expect a headline title to link anywhere, so there's potential for confusion there, but for power users this link gives additional functionality. On balance I'd say this isn't an anti-pattern as such because of the additional functionality it provides.

  • Clean URL: clicking on the title will give a parameter-free version.
  • Canonical URL: if there are multiple ways to get to the same document (potential issues with a site's IA aside), a link may provide a method to get to the canonical version more easily.
  • Right click to retrieve URL: most browsers allow you to copy a url, or open a link in a new tab, or a number of other things from the right click menu. Middle clicking opens the same page in an additional tab in many browsers.
  • Reloading the page: Why not just hit F5, you ask? Good question. But from personal observation of users a number of people refresh pages by clicking a same-page link.

EDIT:

I've found a similar question from webmaster.stackexchange, which has some interesting rationales, including links back to the original from mirrored articles, and the ability to perform "safe refreshes", which don't resubmit POST data.

For contrast, Wikipedia has some guidelines on self links (interestingly, this formatting only applies to the articles themselves and the "Read" link is a self link). They seem to believe that self links are likely to cause confusion - and in the context of Wikipedia's linking pattern, where they're liable to turn up half-way through the article, this makes sense.

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I don't know why these links exist on Stack Exchange. But we see them on many sites … maybe just a bad UI tradition.

There is one use case: People may have been found to this page per newsletter. The URL will then look like:

http://ux.stackexchange.com/questions/21729/why-is-there-a-link-to-the-current-page?newsletter=1&nlcode=51162%7c8257

That's not the URL you want to see in your bookmarks. To get the clean URL you have to remove the parameters manually – or take the link from the head line. The headline is also easier to drag with a mouse than the URL.

Besides that I consider redundant links a rather poor UX: Selecting the title may lead to an unintentional click, and a keyboard user gets an extra, useless step on her way through the site.

I have written a small WordPress plugin to remove redundant links some time ago (doesn't work very good) because in WP, like in many other CMS, these links exist just because the underlying code is rather inflexible or nobody has asked your question.

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