Currently At: Internet Encyclopedia > Concepts > Hypertext


Hypertext, made famous by the World Wide Web, is most simply a way of constructing documents that reference other documents. Within a hypertext document, a block of text can be tagged as a hypertext link pointing to another document. When viewed with a hypertext browser, the link can be activated to view the other document. Of course, if you're reading this document, you're already familiar with the concept.

Hypertext's original idea was to take advantage of electronic data processing to organize large quantities of information that would otherwise overwhelm a reader. Two hundred years ago, the printing press made possible a similar innovation - the encyclopedia. Hypertext's older cousin combined topical articles with an indexing system to afford the researcher one or perhaps two orders of magnitude increase in the volume of accessible information. Early experience with hypertext suggests that it may ultimately yield an additional order of magnitude increase, by making directly accessible information that would otherwise be relegated to a bibliography. Hypertext's limiting factor appears not to be the physical size of some books, but rather the ability of the reader to navigate increasingly complex search structures. Currently, additional increases in human information processing ability seem tied to developing more sophisticated automated search tools, though the present technology presents possibilities that remain far from fully explored.

Augmenting basic hypertext with graphics, more complex user input fields and dynamically generated documents adds considerable power and flexibility to this concept. Hypertext, though still useful for its original goal of organizing large quantities of information, becomes a simple, general purpose user interface that fits neatly into the increasingly popular client-server model. It does not seem difficult to image a day when restaurant orders, for example, will be taken using a hand-held hypertext terminal, relayed directly to the kitchen for preparation, and simultaneously logged to a database for later analysis by management.

Characteristics of good hypertext

The flexibility of hypertext gives free range to the author's creativity, but good hypertext appears to have some common characteristics:

Guidelines for a hypertext reference system

Hypertext seems best suited for reference material, so here are my suggested guidelines for creating hypertext reference systems, with the Internet Encyclopedia offered as an example:

Web Standards & Support:

Link to and support Powered by LoadedWeb Web Hosting
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS! FireFox Extensions