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Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web

Graduate School of Library and Information Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Publication Date
  • Commercialization
  • Internet
  • Libraries And The World Wide Web
  • World Wide Web
  • Economics
  • Political Science


Search engines like Google interpret links to a Web page as objective, peer-endorsed, and machine-readable signs of value. Links have become the currency of the Web. With this economic value they also have power, affecting accessibility and knowledge on the Web. Links have always been fundamental to the Web. In the last few years their value has become regulated as search engines and other systems that find and define the structures of the Web increasingly index links and anchor text in addition to keywords and page content. In these projects, links are seen as objective, democratic, and machine-readable signs of value. There has been little or no critical discussion about this aspect of links, though link data is heavily used. This article discusses the implications and the power structures inherent in this relatively undocumented but influential change in the structuring of the World Wide Web and is an attempt to scan the field from a critical, humanist perspective.

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