I was going to have a mild-mannered fortnight-late rant about the BBC’s new inline links experiment, in response to Metcalfe here and the BBC Editors blog here, but I find that
But pull back a second. Look at the history of the BBC’s linking to external sites. Pretty reluctant, no? Not exactly in the mainstream of link thinking, wouldn’t you say? They’re even messing about with linking to sister companies and not to the rest of the Web. In this, the BBC acts like a particularly ill-informed media company, hugely resistant to “sending users elsewhere” and determined to keep their claws in the user’s flesh for as long as possible. You still see this a lot – with consulting clients, I still have to argue long and hard that “sending the user to a new window” when they click a link is dumb, doesn’t do what it sets out to achieve and has a profound pointlessness.
And yet the BBC still acts with enormous reluctance when it comes to linking externally. It dresses this up in legal concerns, in usability concerns, in editorial concerns – none of which worry even the most paranoid blogger. Let’s be clear: the BBC is judging itself in the harshest commercial terms. It wants to keep users on its site for as long as possible. It believes that every link to the external web is an exit route out of bbc.co.uk. It sees the web – the whole Web – as a nest of competitors determined to snaffle up its precious userbase. It is, in this regard, the anti-Google. And until it finds a new psychology, half-baked fannying around with bizarre linking metaphors will continue.