April 01, 2002

Learning from hypertext's history

The web wasn't the first hypertext system created; many systems came before it: Intermedia, Hypergate, Hypercard, and Storyspace are just a few. In the early days of hypertext experimentation, developers came up with many different ways to represent links. A short historical sidebar to a HypertextNow article outlines some of the different link representations that were explored. After a comparison of different methods at the Hypertext '87 conference (a full 15 years ago), the consensus was that links should be hidden until users elected to show them. Why? Because the other methods had various issues: they gave links too much emphasis, they wasted screen space, or they looked strange and confusing.

Then Mosaic came along and ignored everything that had been learned -- it showed links as underlined blue text. "A link, even the most minor footnote, sticks out from its surrounding text almost as if it were blinking."

Lessons learned: Resources on Hypertext from Useit.com:

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