XML · 28 Feb 2005

Does co-linking measure up?

Bob DuCharme brings news of a technology out of Brazil called co-linking. Through scripting, it provides two XLinkish features: one-to-many links (in the form of a menu that comes up when you click) and third-party links (in the form of reader-insertable links). Interesting! The menu showing the multiple link destinations is exactly how I always pictured it working in XLink, and it’s something I’ve often wished had broken out as a popular feature.

How does co-linking stack up to the rules I proposed in my third-party linking manifesto below?

  • By default, third-party links SHOULD NOT be added by a presentation system. Users MUST be able to opt out of being presented with them. Creators of content MUST be able to opt out of having third-party links applied to their content. It appears that you have to publish co-linkable content with their technology explicitly enabled, so consent seems to be involved by the very nature of the system.
  • Third-party links MUST, by default, be presented differently from originally authored links. This distinction MUST persist in all forms of the content (formatted on a screen, spoken, view-sourceā€¦). I don’t know, but I’m guessing they could allow for this if a customer wanted it.
  • The origin of various third-party links created by different third parties SHOULD be distinguished from each other, ideally indicating their authorship or provenance and a way to contact the link author. The system does seem to capture this as metadata; they ask you to provide your name and email address when you add a link. Presumably this can be used in the display somehow.
  • Commercially sponsored third-party links MUST, in addition, be separately controllable from other third-party links in the manners listed above. Also unknown, but it could just be another kind of metadata that hopefully makes it all the way through to the presentation.

All in all, it seems pretty non-evil. Since it’s a proprietary way to express the linking information, I would think it gives a lot of control over how the capability gets deployed — you probably wouldn’t want to give J. Random Reader Guy co-linking rights, unless you want to build a Wikipedia-style community with “controversy management” and all the rest of it. For XLink or any similar standards-based technology to achieve that level of control, it would have to get more sophisticated (read: even more heavyweight than it already is). But it would be interesting if the developers of co-linking were to offer an XLink import/export option…