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For the love of all that is hyper, stop with the misleading links!

Time once again for one of my pet peeves. In fact, it’s not so much a pet peeve as something that summons my rage to levels no mere listicle can, and especially when an online-only outlet does it. I’m writing, of course, about the profound inability of some web sites to actually do a hyperlink properly.

I’ve written about this again and again and again and again, and until outlets start writing links like they understand what the World Wide Web is for, I’ll keep on raging about it. So here’s today’s villain: Engadget.

Exhibit A:

As you can tell from reading, this is a story about an app called Fleksy. You will note in the first paragraph (#1) that Engadget refers to the company and the app, and the words are underlined to link to other content. Below that (#2), the article refers to an Android version of this particular app.

A savvy veteran of the World Wide Web, or even a rank noob who’d spent more than a day with a browser, would think those links would point you to, I don’t know, the app company’s web site (in the case of #1) or the web page for the Android version (in the case of #2).

But you, dear WWW browser, would be WRONG. Both of those links lead to other Engadget stories about the Flexsy App! In fact, if you want to find the actual Flexsy App link, you have to read down to the bottom of the article, where it’s buried as “sources.” (#3)

If you’re going to do this, just don’t put links in your articles. Put the sources at the bottom of the page and be done with it. Turn off your automated internal linking widget and stop perverting the idea of the hyperlink. If you want to link to an archive of your previous articles, do so in a parenthetical, like this: (previous coverage).

And, as usual, Engadget isn’t unique in this aberrant Web behavior. They are just the one that crossed my path this weekend.

I do realize that one of the largest sites, Wikipedia, does not follow this convention, but Wiki inline links serve a different function. If you click on a wiki link, you are taken to another page with an encyclopedia entry related to the word/phrase you clicked on. There’s no automated collection of articles from the past there. The inline links on most news web sites are just callous attempts to keep you on site.

And just so you know, with the exception of specific references to CICM archives, every one of those links above function as they should – taking you to the source.

Lesson for the day: If you’re going to make a brand name or a business or a government agency name into a link in your story, make it a link to the web site of the brand, business or government agency. It’s not your property, stop using it like it is.

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