The Hyperlink Delusion
A personal statement to upgrade the Web.
The Web established the rules for a game of inequality that platforms learned to master.
The Web established the rules for a game of inequality that platforms learned to master.

Browsing the Web, our journey looks more like a guided tour than a solo trip. The site we are visiting chooses and provides us with the opportunities for our next jump. Once on the new website, the same dynamic repeats again. Each webpage then, can be perceived as a filter of reality, as a unique and limited perspective about a specific topic. The act of deciding which links go in a page implies leaving other links out of it, and for those lucky links that passed the selection process, a different level of relevance is attributed to them, depending on their position in the page, their format and their behavior.

It is important to understand the implications of being a big player in the ecosystem of the Web, the responsability this platforms have at managing the connections between pieces of information and the power that comes with them, but I don’t want to focus your attention and my energy on this now.

I want you to realize that we are building, regardless of the size or the intention, on top of a a system that treats us, by default, as tourists instead of travelers, a system that has been designed in a way that limits and conditions our online experience.

Partircularly, a seemingly subtle design decision that created inequality of power under the idea of “linking”, misinterpreting or underestimating the original ideas from the hyperlink concept [1], moving us away from the opportunity to explore human connection in ways we can not fully understand yet.

“In my view, a lot of the Silicon Valley world that’s arisen since the turn of the century has essentially created gigantic fortunes trying to reconstruct the backlinks that were lost. For instance, if there were two-way links and everything knew what was pointing at it, all you’d have to do is count up all those things and find where there are the most links and you have Google. The information would be right there and it would be public, but because all that was thrown away, Google had to scrape the whole internet or the whole web every night and calculate the backlinks that might have been there and count up where the most of them where in order to sell it to people as a service, to advertisers in this case. […] Facebook is another one. If you had two-way links you’d know who was interested in what you are doing, you’d meet them. […] If you look at the big Silicon Valley success stories they are essentially privatizing the gap between what Tim did and what Ted knew needed to be done from decades earlier and that particular gap filling has created the fastest biggest fortunes in history. Isn’t that astonishing?” Jaron Lanier’s tribute to Ted Nelson at the “Intertwingled” conference. (17:57)
"First Thought, Best Thought"-- Jaron Lanier's tribute to Ted Nelson at "Intertwingled" conference - YouTube