Often abbreviated to "link". Hypertext (meaning "more than just" text) is a form of text typically published on websites that provides a richer functionality than simple text documents by enabling the reader to explore interesting links to other web pages linked to specific words or images within the page. Typically the words or image will be relevant to the linked page, for example Wikipedia home page, but badly designed or malicious sites may use obscure links or obfuscated links which make it hard to work out where the link will take you. A site that uses a lot of these obscure links is said to use " Mystery Meat navigation".
Example: The first word of this sentence: ("Example") is a navigation link embedded in a text object -- if the word is clicked, the browser will navigate to a different page.
Tim Berners-Lee saw the possibility of using hyperlinks to link any unit of information to any other unit of information over the Internet. Hyperlinks were therefore integral to the creation of the World Wide Web.
Links are specified in HTML using the <a> (anchor) elements.
The W3C Recommendation called XLink describes hyperlinks that offer a far greater degree of functionality than those offered in HTML. These extended links can be multidirectional, linking from, within, and between XML documents. It also describes simple links, which are unidirectional and therefore offer no more functionality than hyperlinks in HTML.
A link has two ends, called anchors, and a direction. The link starts at the source anchor and points to the destination anchor. A link from one domain to another is said to be outbound from its source anchor and inbound to its target.
The most common destination anchor is a URL used in the World Wide Web. This can refer to a document, e.g. a webpage, or other resource, or to a position in a webpage. The latter is achieved by means of a HTML element with a "name" or "id" attribute at that position of the HTML document. The URL of the position is the URL of the webpage with "#attribute name" appended — this is a fragment identifier.
When linking to PDF documents from an HTML page the "attribute name" can be replaced with syntax that references a page number or another element of the PDF, for example page=[pageNo] - "#page=386".
A web browser usually displays a hyperlink in some distinguishing way, e.g. in a different colour, font or style. The behaviour and style of links can be specified using the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) language.
In a graphical user interface, the appearance of a mouse cursor may change into a hand motif to indicate a link. In most graphical web browsers, links are displayed in underlined blue text when not cached, but underlined purple text when cached. When the user activates the link (e.g. by clicking on it with the mouse) the browser will display the target of the link. If the target is not an HTML file, depending on the file type and on the browser and its plugins, another program may be activated to open the file.
The HTML code contains some or all of the five main characteristics of a link:
Example: To embed a link into a Page, blogpost, or comment, it may take this form:
Thus, the complex link string is reduced to, [Wikipedia]. This contributes to a clean, easy to read text or document. When the cursor hovers over a link, depending on the browser and/or graphical user interface, some informative text about the link can be shown:
Normally, a link will open in the current frame or window, but sites that use frames and multiple windows for navigation can add a special "target" attribute to specify where the link will be loaded. Windows can be named upon creation, and that identifier can be used to refer to it later in the browsing session. If no current window exists with that name, a new window will be created using the ID.
Creation of new windows is probably the most common use of the "target" attribute. In order to prevent accidental reuse of a window, the special window names "_blank" and "_new" are usually available, and will always cause a new window to be created. It is especially common to see this type of link when one large website links to an external page. The intention in that case is to ensure that the person browsing is aware that there is no endorsement of the site being linked to by the site that was linked from. However, the attribute is sometimes overused and can sometimes cause many windows to be created even while browsing a single site.
Another special page name is "_top", which causes any frames in the current window to be cleared away so that browsing can continue in the full window.
The term "hyperlink" was coined in 1965 (or possibly 1964) by Ted Nelson at the start of Project Xanadu. Nelson had been inspired by "As We May Think," a popular essay by Vannevar Bush. In the essay, Bush described a microfilm-based machine (the Memex) in which one could link any two pages of information into a "trail" of related information, and then scroll back and forth among pages in a trail as if they were on a single microfilm reel. The closest contemporary analogy would be to build a list of bookmarks to topically related Web pages and then allow the user to scroll forward and backward through the list.
In a series of books and articles published from 1964 through 1980, Nelson transposed Bush's concept of automated cross-referencing into the computer context, made it applicable to specific text strings rather than whole pages, generalized it from a local desk-sized machine to a theoretical worldwide computer network, and advocated the creation of such a network. Meanwhile, working independently, a team led by Douglas Engelbart (with Jeff Rulifson as chief programmer) was the first to implement the hyperlink concept for scrolling within a single document (1966), and soon after for connecting between paragraphs within separate documents (1968). See NLS.
While hyperlinking among pages of Internet content has long been considered an intrinsic feature of the Internet, some websites have claimed that linking to them is not allowed without permission.
In certain jurisdictions it is or has been held that hyperlinks are not merely references or citations, but are devices for copying web pages. In the Netherlands, for example, Karin Spaink was initially convicted of copyright infringement for linking, although this ruling was overturned in 2003. The courts that advocate it see the mere publication of a hyperlink that connects to illegal material to be an illegal act in itself, regardless of whether referencing illegal material is illegal. In 2004, Josephine Ho was acquitted of 'hyperlinks that corrupt traditional values'.
In 2000, British Telecom sued Prodigy claiming that Prodigy infringed its patent on web hyperlinks. After litigation, a court found for Prodigy, ruling that British Telecom's patent did not cover web hyperlinks.
When linking to illegal or infringing copyrighted content the law of linking liability is currently considered a grey area. There are examples where sites have been proven liable such as Plaintiff Intellectual Reserve vs Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Reimerdes, and Comcast vs. Hightech Electronics Inc , and there are examples where sites have not been proven liable for linking, for example Perfect 10 v. Google Inc.