We reached the point where the functionality of the <href> attribute needs to be extended. Links within an article -like the one you are reading – aim to provide context or reference for the main object of interest i.e. the page currently accessed.
However gaining access to the contents of the link, means reprioritizing attention (change url, visit the link) OR not gaining value at the time needed (open tabs, read later).
In a low bandwidth world when internet protocols where still shaped, this made sense. Unsurprisingly, the mental model of the link is similar to a pointer in C.
Given that the utility is not fit for purpose anymore feels like rather than choosing it we keep it as we have not questioned it.
The notion of a “link” could be much more versatile, such as a) being embedded like <video>, b) adding controls similar to autoplay and c) becoming intelligent i.e. selecting the most relevant bits of the referenced source to show as an interstitial within the article.
Mostly, this would be a better experience but it also would have a heavy implication on traffic distribution. Users would visit less sites and thus consume less ads. You can immediately see who’s losing in that scenario (hi google). That being said one’s loss, another’s opportunity.
This is a geeky topic I would like to talk about. Hit me up if you have any thoughts on it (technical/commercial) – might be interested in building something in the space.
Alternatively, if you’re reading this and thinking of building solo, still do text me. I could use a better reading experience online and would be your first user.