Sunday, October 04, 2009

Missing links

You might have noticed a new trend for some web sites: missing links. Here's an example from the article ‘Real Buzz’ welcomes Buzz Lightyear back as posted on MSNBC.
Seriously, though, Fincke said, Buzz Lightyear's flight represented an important education tool. On Friday, NASA launched a contest for children to design a mission patch for Buzz Lightyear; the winner will get a Kennedy Space Center tour and a trip to — where else? — Walt Disney World.
 Did you notice the prominent link to the Kennedy Space Center tour? Gotcha. That's an ad. One of those annoying ads that pops up a floating window when you move the mouse over it and is hard to dismiss. What about the link you were looking for, to the NASA page on the contest? You won't find that here.

This breaks the web in two ways. The first is that if ads are disguised as links, then people will start avoiding the links. Tricking people into seeing your ads might also make people avoid your web site.

The second problem is that the web works because of links. Search engines use the link structure to "crawl" the web and find pages. Without links, the web is a bunch of disconnected dead ends. No links = no structure. No structure = no search. No search = no web

I should point out that you shouldn't blame Marcia Dunn, the author of the article or the Associated Press. The link you're looking for <> was in the original article. MSNBC just chose to leave it out. And while this example is picking on MSNBC, the truth is that lots of other sites are breaking the web too.

P.S. Can't wait to see what kids come up with for Buzz Lightyear's mission patch.

1 comment:

  1. In the end, fake links do not serve advertisers. I think they will eventually die like popup and popunder ads have (well, mostly). But, in the meantime, they are hurting the web. I never try to click on a link in an MSNBC news article (and similar sites) anymore because I know they're probably an ad, not a link. Rather than making ad revenue from me, MSNBC has trained me that their links are worthless.

    Small point: these ads are (usually) inserted on-the-fly, so they are not seen by search engines and do not affect the link structure that is crawled.


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