Geekspin Blog

Hyperlink: Tyrant or Titan?

Posted on: March 1, 2006

Doc Searls was asking for comments on a piece written by Frode Hegland, entitled: Ending the Tyranny of link.

I wanted to like what Frode was saying, heck I even went as far as installing his “hyperwords” firefox extension, but I can’t tear myself away from my love for the hyperlink.

Frode argues that any word or words on a text have multiple meanings and connections and that the reader of the text should be able to make the decision to search for more on a phrase, visit the wikipedia or some other reference site, shop for the item, etc.

This is true, and it would be a handy feature but is the hyperlink really a tyrant? Is it value really so degraded to the point of it becoming useless?

I like to hyperlink occasionally, it allows me as the author of this post to provide attribution, reinforce my argument, and provide background to my thoughts, without saying anything in particular. When I hyperlink to something, it is the same as me saying, “Hey I paid some Attention to this thing on the other side of the link and because you probably trust me, go and have a look if you like.” That to me is the true value of the hyperlink. In Doc’s post, I clicked on all of the links – “Open in new tab”, I might add. Why? Well, because I trusted him in pointing me at something of value.

The other problem in using strings of characters on a page as “Hyperwords”, is that those strings of characters only have meaning when given context:
Try this one …


Was I referring to Sting the artist, or a painful incident with a bee?

Yes, I like having a plugin in my browser that can use to quickly change the context of a string of characters on a page to something that it was not initially intended to do, but to me this is nothing new. I have been able to right click search for a selected phrase in Firefox for ages.

The web is a complex network strung together by hyperlinks, I don’t think hyperwords as proposed by this plugin or Frode’s piece fits into this model.

Comments? I would love to hear them, like I said, I really wanted to like this idea. Tag with: hyperwords.

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8 Responses to "Hyperlink: Tyrant or Titan?"

Hi. The title of the piece was inteneded to provoke debate on what we can do in addition to the link. Of course the link is great! 🙂 Now, what else is there?

Ok, fair enough, but please explain the correlation between the hyperlink and the hyperword to me, what value will can it add to the content I am consuming at that moment, or is it more of a way of enhancing the the experience by providing a path leading away from the current topic at hand? -i.e. change the context- If that is what you are saying then I don’t really understand what it has anything to do with the hyperlink at all and it becomes a unique concept on its own and should consequently be treated as such.

There is more to electronic text than manual linking.

Hyperwords provides implicit links, to dictionary entries and so on, but it also has further interactivity, such as quick ways to blog, tag, email and so on.

Hyperwords is simply more interactive text. Does that make more sense?

Hyperwords is simply more interactive text.

Yes that makes more sense and I can agree with that.

So what should we discuss now then? Do you like sushi? 🙂

Yeah, I do actually, but lets talk about hyperwords then.

Now that we are agreed that hyperwords is more enriching than revolutionary, let’s look at the tool a little bit.

I like it and I use, I am just not fond of the fact that it pops up whenever I highlight something, which is something I do a lot when I am reading to act as a visual place mark.
Perhaps you can release a version that is only active via the right-click menu? Also, how tough would it be to make the menu layout configurable, I know zilch about plugin design so I am not sure how possible that would be? In greasemonkey there is quite a bit of config possible.
Why is my tag menu empty?

Don’t know why your tag menu is empty, please try to re-install from

Yes, it will be confgurable in about a month.

And there are other options for spawning the menu, in Preferences under ‘Hyperwords’ in the menu. + There will be more soon 🙂

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