Wikipedia is, I suppose, the ultimate in hyperlink use and has quite a strict linking style guideline for the ways in which URLs and hyperlinks are used within the text. Editors who don't conform to the style are quickly picked up - especially on more popular articles.
I have to say it really does make for a pretty consistent reading experience from one page to the next, despite so many articles being written by so many different people.
Wikipedia does manage the process carefully - but they do tend to have hyperlinks leading to other Wikipedia articles and external links saved to the end of the article where they are categorized as such, as external related pages or references.
The lazy way is of course to include the link URL in the text, and I'm victim of doing that myself quite often, but if really considering the structure of the content, it's much nicer for the reader to use hyperlinks and build the information into the text which can otherwise be gleaned from the URL.
A restructuring of the example in the question would be:
Smashing Magazine did a report in July 2011 on Responsive Web
Design in which they round up a collection of resources, strategies and
So I'd much rather read that than have to decode the URL, even though the URL tells me basically the same thing.
So when does Wikipedia use URLs? Where Wikipedia allows the URL to be included, then they cite it as needing it to have intrinsically valuable information. So that's open for debate then, but what valuable information cannot be gleaned from the example above?
Here's a quote from the secton on Link titles in the same Wikipedia guidelines:
Generally, URLs are ugly and uninformative; it is better for a
meaningful title to be displayed rather than the URL itself. For
example, European Space Agency website is much more reader-friendly
than http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/index.html. There may be
exceptions where the URL is well known or is the company name. In this
case, putting both the URL and a valid title will be more informative:
for example, European Space Agency website, www.esa.int.
If the URL is
displayed, make it as simple as possible; for example, if the
index.html is superfluous, remove it (but be sure to check in preview
But then what they add is this:
The "printable version" of a page displays all URLs in full, including those given a title, so no information is lost.
And that is a very good point! A good time to use a URL is when the article is likely to be printed. And to have a separate 'printer friendly' version of an article is a good way to achieve this whilst keeping the 'normal' version more readable and SEO friendly.