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The Hypertext Maximalist's Manifesto

The World Wide Web is an example of a massive hypertext application. You are currently reading a hypertext document, actually!

But what is hypertext? Hypertext is a work of writing that does not have a set beginning and an end, in other words, it is not linear. Its main feature is that it contains links to other texts, creating a network (or web, if you will) of documents that you navigate by using the links between them. Sound familiar?

But from the humble beginnings of the World Wide Web to today, a lot has changed. While it is still technically a massive hypertext, it has grown into this unholy mass of web applications running on someone else's computer, unfree and invasive scripts, heavy media content such as videos or web games, and much more.

And most damningly, people just don't link to many other places anymore, essentially isolating their site from the rest of the web! People keep relying on search engines as a central "link hub" to discover more places in the WWW instead of becoming their own little hubs.

The one advantage of browsing a hypertext is that whatever section in a piece of text interests you might link to another, more elaborate or comprehensive resource. That's what web surfing is all about: hopping from site to site following links, absorbing more and more interesting information as you go! It's also what makes Wikipedia's "rabbit hole" so infamously interesting to waste time on. However, websites without external links essentially turn into dead ends for the would-be web surfer.

Relying on search engines puts an undue amount of responsibility and power in the hands of massive search engine providers and their profit-driven algorithms. It keeps directing people to commercial websites and SEO-rich blogspam. Search results are practically useless these days. The modern internet sucks, but the World Wide Web hypertext still exists: we just need to use it.

Appeal to the reader

Don't let yourself become a dead end: use more hyperlinks on your web pages!

While working on your page, consider whether a remark or an anecdote in your text might be additionally illustrated by an interesting article on the subject. When you mention projects, groups or communities, just link to them! When you write about your experiences learning the Hare programming language, link to it. If you mention being from Georgia, link to information on it! If you come from Scunthorpe and you are frustrated with your home town occasionally being censored online as "S****horpe", why not link the relevant Wikipedia page on the well-known, aptly named Scunthorpe problem?

Finding websites to link to in the first place might be tricky, though. For some topics, it's pretty self-explanatory: talking about Python links to the official Python website. But how do you find interesting further-reading resources to link to if we just established that search engines suck? My recommendation is to use the Marginalia search engine and fiddling around with its settings and features to find interesting small websites about the topic you want. Alternatively, try and follow link chains from already related websites, or peruse Wikipedia references. And if all else fails, just use a big search engine and hope for the best in the latter results.

(Don't overdo this though. Not every word needs a link.)

Additionally, stop making your users and yourself rely on search engines to discover new corners of the web. Be active in webrings, fan listings, web cliques! If you like someone's website, put it in a link directory like I do. Be proud of your own little corner of the massive hypertext that we call the World Wide Web. :)

Links on Libre Town

There are two types of links on Libre Town: the very overt hyperlinks in high-contrast colors like this one, and more subtle links that are underlined but otherwise appear as normal text, like this one.

Links that are essential to the purpose of the text will be of the clearly visible type, while the more minimal hyperlink style is meant to provide resources for further reading, usually to external web pages. This is my attempt at trying to balance linking to as many relevant other web pages and references as possible, and not cluttering the site which would lead to a less pleasant reading experience.

Feel free to adopt this system on your own sites!