Thinking of the web as a literal web is an excellent parallel, albeit a limiting one. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol allows for hyper-linking other pages on the web. A page can contain links to several other pages. These links though carry a lot of context. These links make the internet more valuable than the value of the sum of each page.
The interlinking of pages is what allows content to strive and stay relevant. It also serves as an excellent motivation to generate more content. A lot of this is toned down due to powerful search engines and their ability to index the web (which, ironically, wouldn’t be possible if the pages were not linked to other pages in the first place). This indexing allows us to jump through the web and find what we need. These search engines are getting better at understanding context. They are getting smarter with semantics and natural language and we are moving towards a semantic web. Perhaps, there is a better way to get there.
The internet, in all its glory, is flat. I don’t quite get why. The entire internet could be visualized in two dimensions. I just made the case for hyper-linking being what makes the web special. These links encapsulate context but they also miss out on a lot. Let me elucidate. Here is the Wikipedia entry on Banksy as of the writing of this article:
Banksy is an English-based graffiti artist, political activist and film director whose identity is not proven but for whom there is widespread acceptance of evidence that he is Robin Gunningham. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stenciling technique.
This nicely worded description states that Banksy uses dark humour in his art. The link in the article points to the Wikipedia entry of dark humour. Which works great if I don’t know what dark humour is, but it is pretty useless if I do. Not only is it useless, it is a missed opportunity, a missed opportunity to embed where Banksy uses dark humour in his art. Which would work great if I was unfamiliar with his work and his usage of dark humour in it, but pretty useless if I was. Not only is it useless, it is a missed opportunity, a missed opportunity to show why Banksy uses dark humour in his art. You get the drift?
Sure, links embed context in them, but they also limit every other idea I could associate to a word that is being hyper-linked. This is a design restriction. I cannot make these links point to different things. Which is why we need an internet with stronger and smarter links. Links that embed multiple ideas, making the internet multi dimensional and semantically aware.
Easier said than done, surely.
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