Monday, November 17, 2008

Hyperlinking

While reading random chapters from The Hyperlinked Society (via digital culture books) that talk about the nature and purpose of a hyperlink, I decided to try something I used to do a lot of when the Internet was utterly new to me. I would start at some random place like a news article and follow a hyperlink trail to wherever it took me. It was fascinating how quickly I would be completely de-linked from my source and have no way to trace my steps back - this was the web equivalent of being lost in the woods and it was always a surprising and most often gratifying journey. I loved how I would never quite know where hyperlinking would lead me or what I would learn along the way.

I tried this again today, starting with a story on Yahoo about the world's oldest temple which took me directly to Smithsonian's site. I realized that the web is organized so different today than it was ten years ago. For instance, there is no way for me to click my way out of this website - I can read stories related to the oldest temple one. The farthest I could go was the educational travel sub-site. As the web has evolved, you have fewer degrees of freedom. Instead of being able to wander away at whim you now had a well defined navigation that aims to keep you where you are and make the most of your visit.

Now this would be most standards qualify as good web-design. One the visitor comes in, they stick around and get a chance to absorb what the organization has to offer. Yet for a one-time indefatigable hyperlink jumper like myself, this user experience is akin to a fly who gets trapped in a spider-web - enjoyable just does not come to mind in the context. Not surprisingly, I find blogs, social bookmark sites and the like far more interesting. Without outbound links, web content is equal to a static book except it you can't curl up and go to sleep with it.

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