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What is a Hyperlink? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:00 What Is a Hyperlink?
  • 1:39 The History of the Hyperlink
  • 2:15 Legal and Ethical Issues
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

This article discusses hyperlinks, which are often the jumping-off point for navigating the Internet. We'll define the term 'hyperlink', talk about how hyperlinks came about, and explain how they are used.

Did you ever notice when you're looking at something on the Internet that sometimes your mouse pointer on the screen will turn into a pointing finger? Congratulations - you've found a hyperlink! A hyperlink is an embedded command that allows you to jump somewhere else on the Web, within a document or set of documents, or launch something, such as a film clip, by clicking on text or an image. Hyperlinks are a big part of Web surfing, giving users the ability to freely move around from one topic of interest to another quickly and easily.

Hyperlinks can take many forms - underlined text (which are often in blue), images, drop-down menus, animations, etc. In addition to being embedded in Web pages, hyperlinks can also be placed into many kinds of electronic documents, such as a Microsoft Word document, a PDF file, or an email. Hyperlinks are integral parts of larger hypertext systems which are used to organize different types of information. The ability to fluidly navigate using these links is the key. Imagine if you had a really good librarian helping you figure out where to go next in your research.

The World Wide Web (hence the 'www.' that begins a Web address) is made up of hyperlinked documents, content, and media, and it resides on the Internet. Web browsers, the programs that we use to search the Internet, were designed to take advantage of hyperlinks and to facilitate their use. Web pages themselves are written using the hypertext markup language known as HTML. The Internet provides the underlying structure (or the network) for all of this to function.

The term 'hyperlink' has been around for roughly 50 years and was first described by Ted Nelson in a series of books and articles between 1964 and 1980. In 1987, Apple released a database for Mac computers called HyperCards that featured hyperlinking between pages in a document, and in 1990, the help feature in Microsoft Windows 3.0 used hyperlinks to tie different pages together. When Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, was developing his vision of how the Web would operate, hyperlinks were a crucial component.

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