Hyper Text: Dead?
I’ll go out on a limb here: the current debate over the future of the Google Toolbar’s AutoLink feature is possibly one of the most important debates in the history of the Internet. Two sides have sprung up in this debate. Those who advocate for the right to use a product like the Google Toolbar to rip/mix/burn the content they obtain from the Internet and those who oppose the manipulation of the sanctity of hyperlinks.
Honestly, I came to a very rapid conclusion on this one: I’m against the manipulation (or addition) of links. Why? Think about what the World Wide Web is and what makes it so special.
Is it DIV tags. Is it TABLE structures? Is it IMaGes? No, it’s links. Hyper-links. H</u>yper T</u>ext T</u>ransfer P</u>rotocol. Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML). The linked nature of the documents that populate the Internet are what make the Web work. The number of links, and their relevance is what allows Google to earn billions of dollars a year. Besides the plain-text editorial content of a given page, the links are the single most important component.
So, my point is that links are sacrosant in ways that other markup isn’t. Some of the pro-rip/mix/burn crowd might think that this is an illogical stance and that all markup should be considered equal. I think these people are simply getting stuck in the trap of an “all-or-nothing” argument. Either you can modify content (in any way you see fit) or you can’t. Personally, I don’t buy in to that.
This debate is important because it is a slippery slope. Once content modification is blessed by the masses, you’ve broken the web. You’ve snubbed your nose at producers of content in order to grossly over-empower consumers, and an important balance is disrupted. Ask yourself why people/organizations/companies would spend vast amount of time and money to produce content whose inherent message and qualities can be rearranged on the fly? Where does it end?