Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ending the Tyranny of the Link

Frode Hegland has an interesting idea. He reckons it is time for the Web to move on from hyperlinks.

"Web links are curious things, they are actually addresses but they are called links. This is not just semantics, it’s important: A link has two ends, hence it links two things (or more). But web links only have one end, and that end is an address saying ‘go to this computer and this directory and that file’. That is an address, a pointer. The file pointed to doesn’t even need to exist...

But links required the author to know what links would be useful to the reader and it did not allow the reader to create links or connections on the fly.

The reader was forced to follow the links, or spend time copying text, going to other sites, such as search engines or dictionaries and pasting the text, then waiting for the results.

Additionally, once the author decides to make a link, the author can only make the link go to one place. The author cannot make the link go to multiple destinations. For example, a link to a politicians name, should that go to the official page for that politician, to a page on voter records, or maybe to news about the politician?

a different perspective

Instead of making a few words special and interactive, instead of making the author have to decide on all the useful navigation options, why not make all the words interactive?

Instead of special hyperlinks, why not also have all the word become (for want of a better name) ‘hyperwords’?

an approach

Hyperwords would allow users to interact with any text in many ways. For example, select text and search the web, search for people or search for information about the page they are viewing.

Or look up references like Wikipedia, dictionaries and so on. This could be considered ‘implicit’ links - a word is always implicitly linked to its entry in the dictionary for example.

Different dimensions of the text should be accessible, such as the map of a place, perhaps even the local time right now and the temperature. Why not?

How about translations, of full pages or or single words or snippets of text, why can that not be within a the reach of a single click, as quick as a pre-made, hand-made link?

Other commands, like shopping should also be available. And many more than I can think of.

Why should the world wide web be limited to the authors simple links? Why should it be limited to software designers browser controls?

For that matter, why should it be limited to the imagination of the designers of the extension designed to make Hyperwords real?

Other interactions could be useful, such as printing, blogging about, tagging or emailing a chunk of text, complete with attribution, quickly and easily, with a single click."

And there is a team of folks in Silicon Valley, including Frode Hegland, who seem to have built a beta model for us to try out.

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