While we are discussing linking and hypertext, I wanted to bring up a concept that I first learned about during the Digital Tribes course at MACT. In the book, Critical Cyberculture Studies, Greg Elmer's article The Vertical (Layered) Net describes the differences between two schools of thought about the future of the web.
On one side, developers believed the web should be open, shared and used for more than passive browsing, and on the other side were developers who felt that it should be controlled and needed to protect proprietorial interests. On page 162, Elmer explains the debate that hyperlinks should be multi-directional. If I link to your site, your site would now link to mine. He points out that this is a logical concept, especially since the term link connotes two ends.
Elmer says that, "If [links] are bidirectional, a link always exists in the reverse direction. A disadvantage of this being enforced is that it might constrain the author of a hypertext - we might want to constrain the reader" (emphasis added by Elmer). Three years after this discussion at Berners-Lee's World Wide Web Consortium, Elmer says that a compromise was made so that the "'collaborative possibilities of hypertext' on the Web are reduced to simple annotative possibilities of hypertext links".
When I read this, I was struck by how drastically this would change the web as we know it. If multi-directional links were in place, people would need to pay more attention to where they link and why. I regularly see links added on the end of a page as afterthought and accompanied by the words, "for more information" or tacked on as a lazy reference.
But imagine if links worked both ways. If I linked to a CNN story on my blog, the link would also allow CNN visitors to see my blog. This could be helpful if I expanded on the story, but it could also waste their time if all I did was post a link without adding new content. This small change to hyperlinks could have changed the way the web was built, how people browsed and the content provided. I can't help but think that it would be a more democratic web if links worked both ways.