Links are code. When webmasters published the web, they did so in code. Nowadays people publish to the web. They don’t use code.
How does a person “link” to a site today? Is it an anchor tag? Does it have attributes? No, they simply type whatever.com into their user interface. There is very little incentive to make a link, and very little if any visible benefit.
Today people use platforms, and platforms produce code. Tech people used to code html pages, but now even they use platforms (like WordPress). WordPress used to have “blogrolls”, but they are now out of fashion. What’s in fashion? Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress blogs with minimalist themes (no blogrolls).
People still “recommend” websites. They don’t build as many links as they used to. What’s a search engine to do?
Facebook is manipulating internal (and outbound) linking. If it does so following a schema, Google can manage it. If not, Google has stress. Twitter forces TinyURLs, according to a schema. But lately Twitter is showing it knows how to make friends, and can influence people. Twitter is starting to manipulate the internal and outbound links it owns, and sell its integrity to players in the web industry. I don’t expect much from Twitter.
The days of the public-facing web page platform are behind us. The players producing platforms are manipulating the currency that they see those platforms aggregate — which is mostly links. As you type type type your content into Twitter or WordPress.com or Wikipedia you are fueling the coffers of an elite group of benefactors, and if they continue to manipulate the open web, we lose the “free” benefits of our world wide web. They used to encourage you to sign onto their systems, but now they need you. We’re not linking because our tools don’t make it easy enough to express our linking selves. Those who make the flexible tools today do so for personal gains, not the betterment of the web, and so they manage the linking. Greed is the new black.
And as we all stop linking, and our overlords manipulate the linking behind our content, what is Google to do? Just a hint — we stopped linking quite a while ago, in Internet time. Google’s been trying things, but I haven’t seen much success.
Free was never free; it was “no cost to users”. But as users lose the benefits of the open web, the cost of free can be substantial. The Tragedy of the Commons is hastened by the greed of those pulling platform strings, encouraged by search engines seemingly comfortable with the relationship, and supported by the masses of individuals looking to easily publish themselves on the web in order to “be somebody”.
I wrote this post on my self-published blog, and felt no desire nor need to link out to anything on the web. I’m not trying to educate an audience, nor trying to get them to sign onto my platform. I know few will link to this, although relatively many will indeed read it. Some might comment, but unless they desire a stunted, asynchronous one-way “conversation” they won’t bother. One or two may Twitter a 132 character quip to me about this, or send a DM, but I won’t hold my breath waiting.
The days of the html web are over, and we are in transition to something next.. the real time web. We have been for a while. Google runs the show today, because Google owns the archives… and I refer to very short term archives, since if we don’t witness something published live, we immediately go to Google to re fined it. People are saying twitter search is the next Google. Boy oh boy I can’t wait to see what our leaders and governments will do with populations of short-memory, attention overloaded, short-term-archive-dependent citizens.
For now, as an SEO, I have a job to do. But looking forward, unless Google or another search engine “nationalizes” itself for the good of the web or the web users, things are going to get ugly.