Friday, October 03, 2008

Why doesn't the New York Times take advantage of the web's most basic feature?

I read the New York Times website regularly. But I have one significant complaint. Articles on the website do not hyperlink to anything outside the Times archive. As such, the articles don't have the value and impact they could.

Here's an example. In today's Times, I read this article about the McCain campaign. I was intrigued by the following paragraph:

He has been searching for a message and a way to make a case against Mr. Obama, and often publicly venting his frustration at the way the campaign is going, as he did this week in a contentious meeting with the editorial board of The Des Moines Register.

A contentious meeting with the Des Moines Register? I was intrigued. Where was my link to more information? There was none. To find out about it, I needed to do a Google search to find this explanation (with lots of external links, by the way).

This may sound like a trivial complaint, but hyperlinking within a document to other sources is one of the primary features of Tim Berners-Lee's design for the web (described at length in his great book Weaving the Web). And it's one of the main reasons a web site is richer and more vibrant than a newspaper or a book.

So why doesn't the Times use it? Out of a misguided notion that a web site needs to keep people inside by constantly referring to itself. Every web site does that to an extent (this one does, as well), but internal references need to be leavened with numerous external links... especially when there's not an internal elaboration available (as was the case with the Des Moines Register reference).

Even if you're the Times.

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