I'm thinking of names and stuff containing accented characters.

E.g.is there a difference between:

<a href="http://example.com/thing?name=forêt">link</a>


<a href="http://example.com/thing?name=for%C3%AAt">link</a>


Do browsers handle these the same? Or is there some compelling reason to encode these links?

2 Answers 2


Do browsers handle these the same?

Yes, all (modern) browsers handle these the same. In that all (modern) browsers implicitly URL encode (ie. percent-encode) the URL if you don't explicitly encode this yourself in the HTML source.

In both cases, the browser will implicitly request the percent-encoded URL when a user clicks the link. Select "Copy link address" from the browser's context menu and you copy the percent-encoded URL in both cases. Reading the href attribute of both links using JavaScript returns the percent-encoded URL.

In fact, I believe HTML5 allows unencoded unicode characters:

A potential problem might just be "old browsers". How old I don't know. But "old" might just be too old to worry about. (?)


W3C says URLs can only be sent over the Internet using the ASCII character-set. You will need to convert those characters to something. People often replace unsafe characters with their % encoded form. A percent-encoded reference can be found here.

Here is there reference: http://www.w3.org/Addressing/URL/4_URI_Recommentations.html

  • 2
    Yes, I know the recommendation. My question is more like is there a practical difference? AFAIK browsers can handle the unencoded form in my example just as well.
    – Tom
    Commented Oct 29, 2015 at 20:59
  • "People often replace unsafe characters with % symbol." - you mean, invalid characters are percent-encoded.
    – MrWhite
    Commented Oct 30, 2015 at 20:51
  • 1
    W3schools is NOT W3C. Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 2:06
  • The link to W3schools is just for the % encoded reference chart. The reference at the bottom of my answer is directly to the W3C URI recommendations overview. Sorry for any confusion.
    – genepool99
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:49

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