Webometric Thoughts

February 20, 2009

A Philosophy of Linking: Does The Pirate Bay need a webometrician?

Filed under: Bill Thompson,Pirate Bay,Theory of Linking,webometrics — admin @ 9:34 am

As members of The Pirate Bay stand trial Bill Thompson points out the need for a philosophy of linking:

The Pirate Bay case hinges on what counts as infringement, and whether simply linking to a site is enough to make someone liable, treating a hypertext link to a third-party URL as an endorsement, as something that makes a connection between two web pages or information sources that has real legal significance and weight.

Yet it is nothing of the sort. Ever since Tim Berners-Lee defined the Hypertext Markup Language and its Uniform Resource Locators one fundamental thing has applied – a link is just a link….

Perhaps we need a ‘philosophy of linkage’ to explore what the use of a link can signify, before the lawyers decide it for us and limit the creative potential of the web through their lack of imagination and understanding.

The theory of linking often comes up as a topic of conversation in webometrics, in much the same way as a theory of citation is discussed in bibliometrics. Unfortunately it often takes a back seat to those webometric areas with more obvious real-world applications, e.g., the creation of web indicators.

Only a couple of months ago a colleague and I started working on a ‘Theory of Linking’, but other work got in the way and the paper remains unfinished. Who knows, maybe if we had written the paper we could have been the first webometricians to be expert witnesses!

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