de-link-ification of the internet

The disappearing link

What happened to links?

  • Blogs don’t have blogrolls anymore.
  • Tweets really only hold one link each.
  • Instagram doesn’t allow you to have clickable links in captions.

A blogger was imprisoned in an Iranian jail for seven years for supporting the free web. Upon his release, he wrote an article “The Web we have to save” with this great observation of how the internet has changed in seven years, “I’ve realized how much the hyperlink has been devalued, almost made obsolete.”

Why has the hyperlink been devalued? Is it the services like Instagram that killed the link? Is it the walled garden if Facebook that makes linking unnecessary?

Instead of focusing on the services that facilitated the change, the real reason is the end user.

Part of what happened with this de-link-ification of the internet is that people who aren’t technical took over as users (and creators) of the internet. Back in the blogging days, writers would need some sort of technical ability. Even if it was VERY simple technical ability. For instance, the ability to make a link. It sounds ridiculous that a person wouldn’t know how to make a link, but there are a great majority people out there who simply don’t know how to do it.

As more and more people get online, there are more people who don’t know how to make a hyperlink—not even the HTML behind a hyperlink, but the simple action of clicking the links icon and creating a link. We all live in our own bubbles of social circles. There are many people out there who simply use the internet to consume and don’t create.

Now for those who do know how to make a link, they are just too lazy to not leave a link. Most of the time when I get requests to update a client’s website, I rarely get a URL of the page. It’s amazing how people simply do not want to take the time to copy the link to a page and put it into the email.

I believe the same is happening with our online audiences and creators. People simply do not want to take the time to link to other places. Sure, they may leave one link in a tweet. Or one link in a post. But there is no true inter-linking to sources or interesting places within a blog post.

Simply put, more and more people who use the internet these days are people who want to be entertained, instead of people who want to inquire.

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2 thoughts on “de-link-ification of the internet”

  1. Don’t you think it has something to do with driving people away from your site, whether it’s a personal blog or the site that’s part of your professional life? I think people are so scared of having users leave their site and not come back that links get used less and less. Can’t say that I actually mind too much. I don’t mind one or two links but the old days of every other sentence being a hyperlink seemed excessive and sort of silly. My guess is that with ad blocker, people eventually may link to other sites because they won’t be getting the advertising dollars anyway.

    1. Hmm, you make a very good point, Marco. I’m not concerned about people leaving my site. That’s kinda like saying you have someone for dinner and you are afraid they are going onto the porch and they won’t come back inside. They know where your house is. They’ll come back inside.

      And it’s a new user who doesn’t really know the location of your house, if they leave, that’s fine. But we should find ways to make things more welcoming for them to come back.

      I’ve always been turned off by newspapers’ long-standing tradition of not having external links in their articles. If they talk about a particular service, then by all means, link to it! But oh noooo, don’t lose that potential advertising dollars.

      All blogs should be a resource first. Then people will come back when they click on a link.

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