Dangerous Links: Why & How Google Wants to Abolish Hypertext


Are links unnatural or even dangerous?

The Web is built upon so called hypertext.

Why is hypertext called hyper in the first place?

Isn’t it just text published on the Internet?

The hyper-aspect stems from hyperlinks.

It’s not because of all the hypes we witness on the Internet.

Yes, links make the Web what it is. You must be thinking:

Are you kidding me? How that? Let me explain below!

Reading Books vs Hypertext

Before the Internet you could only publish and read in a linear way.

As a reader you would start at page 1 and read on.

Of course you could read the end of the book right at the start.

I did in school when we had to tell the teacher how a book we had to read ended.

You could even read page 50, then page 1 and then again page 100. Yet most people didn’t.

In the print era you would start at the beginning and finish reading at the end.

Newspaper readers would read just the few articles they liked, skip the ads and look up the weather report right away.

Some people would even read more than one newspaper or book at a time, read this one a bit and then the other one.

When hypertext arrived, that is text containing links to other texts, linear reading became a thing of the past.

On the WWW you can open up a wormwhole-like hyper-channel from inside a text!

Then you can land on another text in real time despite it being an a different server at the other end of the world.

The really revolutionary thing about the Internet is not the “series of tubes” it consists of according to a popular anecdote.

It’s not that you can view cute cat images or receive tons of spam in your inbox.

The most important aspect of the Web is the hyperlink.

In reality the Web is just part of the Internet. I use the phrases interchangeably here for the sake of simplicity.

For example email is not part of the Web, it uses the Internet though.

The Web is defined by hypertext. Without hypertext aka links there is no Web.

There is just a collection of documents that aren’t connected.

The Open Web

The nature of the “open” Web is free and egalitarian. In theory everybody can publish and link to others.

Of course the early Web was still a bit difficult to publish on.

I tried in 1997 for the first time. It was easy in a way (I hand coded my first webpage in Windows Notepad).

I was a student in college sitting at a dead slow clumsy computer.

I could publish to the whole world with just a few keystrokes.

That was an amazing feeling. It was really about equality and opportunity.

My university allowed me and other students to publish for free on their webspace.

A few years later Google appeared and decided that equality is inherently a bad thing for their business model.

So they created PageRank. Its name stems from Larry Page (not the Web “page” like you might think).

So Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided that some sites and links are more equal than others.

Google Introduces the Inequality of Links

While the technology behind each link is the same one link is more valuable than the other according to Google.

They created a meritocracy based on the number and authority of links.

A link from the New York Times would count more than one from my free DIY college page.

Google became the dominant search engine by analyzing hypertext instead of simply counting words. Older search engines just counted words on a page.

When Google became popular many people noticed that links are a currency by themselves.

Then the big link trade began and it still takes place. Now that links are not created equal anymore you can also trade or buy them.

Some links are worth more than others. Some links are even sold for thousands of dollars.

Of course Google frowns upon this practice of “buying paid links“.

Making Links Scary

Still links are pretty egalitarian to this day. Anybody can still link to anybody else. Links can be automated.

Also there is even some level of anonymity when you link to someone or someone links to you.

There is no name or image attached to a link.

In the early days of the Internet most governments and conservative pundits were scaring people about the Web!

According to that type of propaganda it is mostly about

  • guides on how to build bombs
  • child molesters
  • and Nazi propaganda.

There were many attempts to make links illegal. For example in Germany you assume responsibility the minute you link out to a site.

You can even get sued when somewhere on that site you link to illegal material appears.

Many use bizarre disclaimers that are meant to protect them in case they link to something of questionable legal status but those won’t help in most cases.

You’ll have to fight in court despite of them.

By now links are even scarier though. During the so-called Penguin update Google demoted most unnatural links.

You can even get penalized for linking or getting linked.

Thus people are scared of linking out.

Google’s Fear of Links

Google now tries a similar strategy: for years the common Google-speak was to call links they don’t like “dodgy links”.

In recent years they dubbed those links “unnatural”.

The next step is already on the way: it seems links are now dangerous.

Of course not all links, just some links, the over-optimized ones, the ones just built for SEO reasons.

Guess what average people will remember after reading such an article? Exactly: “dangerous links”.

They won’t be able to really remember which links exactly are dangerous. They will get even more cautious when linking out or even allowing incoming links.

For years many newspaper sites have been ridiculed by Web-savvy webmasters for forbidding linking to their sites in their TOS.

Already most people get link removal requests from all sorts of webmasters and their Asian outsourcing SEO service providers.

Now that links can be dangerous this situation will worsen.

Don’t fret though! Google has already the solution. They were building their own secure proprietary Web for us.

They had many attempts at this:

  • Google+
  • AMP
  • SGE

They might come up with a new name or scheme any day. It doesn’t matter.

What they want is what their competition from

  • Microsoft
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Amazon

already has: a closed walled garden type of ecosystem they control and wherein they can trap users.

The Proprietary Google Web

Google already tried to force you on YouTube to use your real name.

For a while each time I wanted to comment they asked the same question again.

I couldn’t say “no”. They asked again without giving me a clear choice of saying “no”. Only reloading the page would help. 

On Google+ most people used real names or nicknames you can easily identify which aren’t really anonymous but that service failed.

Links, aka hyperlinks aka hypertext are dangerous? Why? It’s because no single company can control them.

That’s why Google wants to replace them with proprietary metrics and connections.

The first step in doing so is convincing people that free and neutral links are dangerous for them.

Once people stop using hyperlinks the “better” Google alternative will solve the problem.

Google’s proprietary strategy is so apparent I wonder why nobody is talking about it. Prepare for the forced identification Google activity dystopia.

Google will protect us from dangerous links by creating their own Web where every move is tied to your identity and closely monitored.

Google already succeeded to some extent with their proprietary AMP coding language that replaces Web standards like HTML and JavaScript.

Yet AMP is not their focus anymore. By now SGE (Search Generative Experience) is the next level Google version.

This AI based search engine just takes third party content and summarizes it!

No need for sources anymore or outgoing links to check out!

They are hard to find and there is no incentive to click through usually.

So very soon the open Web might be closed for good.

* Creative Commons image by Andrew Barclay.