The Hyperlink Delusion
A personal statement to upgrade the Web.
My response
I am here to participate in a collective effort to upgrade the Web.
I am here to participate in a collective effort to upgrade the Web.

I am not the only one preoccupied with how links should behave [1]. The discussion began long before the birth of the Web [2] and it is difficult to imagine that it ends soon if we consider how many empires have been built on top of such behavior [3].

Unidirectionality of links is one feature that deserves our attention if we want to improve our experience on the Web. One feature but not the only one. One strategy to challenge the statu quo, but not the only one. It is the one I have chosen to tackle first.

If we retrieve the relationship of mutual influence between technology and society described at the beginning of the text [4], it seems that we are in front of a chicken-and-egg dilemma if we have to decide from which side to approach the situation. Both society [5] and tools [6] are valid perspectives from which to build a strategy, as well as many more.

I am going to share my particular approach, perspective and progress in future texts, and I hope your participation will influence me along the way.

Thank you for joining me today :-)

“A fundamental question in the early days of hypertext was whether links should be one-way or bidirectional. Theorists were adamant that links should work both ways. […] A survey of some of the abstracts from the ‘89 conference reminds me of the many proposals on how to make bidirectional links work. […] Tim Berners-Lee (who didn’t present at Hypertext ‘89) launched the HTML/HTTP combo we know as the World-Wide Web one year after that conference. His aspirations were for a global, open web and so he took the practical approach of unidirectional links. His decision was strongly criticized by visionaries like Ted Nelson but today you’re reading this on the web while Xanadu remains a dream.”
Of That: Bidirectional Links: They're Here!
“Links are visible and can be followed from all endpoints.” Project Xanadu.
Project Xanadu - Wikipedia
“If they are bidirectional, a link always exists in the reverse direction. A disadvantage of this being enforced is that it might constrain the author of a hypertext - he might want to constrain the reader. However, an advantage is that often, when a link is made between two nodes, it is made in one direction in the mind of its author, but another reader may be more interested in the reverse link. Put another way, bidirectional linking allows the system to deduce the inverse relationship, that if A includes B, for example, that B is part of A. This effectively adds information for free. This is important when a critical parameter of the system is how long it takes someone to create a link.” Under the question “Should the links be monodirectional or bidirectional?”, Tim Berners-Lee reflects about a bidirectional behavior for links.
HyperText Design Issues: Topology
“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Quote by John M. Culkin, presenting the ideas of Marshall McLuhan.
We Shape Our Tools, and Thereafter Our Tools Shape Us – Quote Investigator
“The internet is a reflection of our society and that mirror is going to be reflecting what we see. If we do not like what we see in that mirror the problem is not to fix the mirror, we have to fix society.” Vint Cerf, one of “the fathers of the Internet”.
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” Steve Jobs.