Links are suddenly not that interesting anymore. They stop serving us as an alternative to thinking and creating informational relationships; they switch to a functional role. They become tools to navigate websites and pointers to share content on social networks. Ultimately, links have become click bait – transparent gadgets for traffic in an accelerated race to the ends of our brains. We find out ourselves whether the links help us see the connections or just distract us or make us stupid.
Today, links are most widely used to reference source material, not to connect ideas. We use links to store basements with captions instead of building contextual cathedrals. Most of us think of a link as something to click on or pass on to our friends, but not so much as something to create. And when the tech industry decided they were going to create something called “deep linking,” their own information retrieval and management systems did not help them see that the term had a record.
Knitting the cell together
The Web has been a noisy set of links ever since its widespread use. (Sometimes, even technology journalists seems to forget this.) Links are what makes the Web a website; without them, that is impossible. It’s how it evolved, how early users found each other, how they shared content, and built their world. Pop-up ads, retargeted messages, monetization links – all that followed.
With mobile, it looks like we’re going to see what happens when you flip this chain of events – when you try to build an affiliate network that’s interconnected by starting with content marketing. and after that, try to add user contributions.
Chris Maddern is a co-founder of ButtonOne of the companies has set out to make deep links work in the application realm and he speaks with quick precision about the unfortunate state of interoperability on today’s mobile devices. .
“Right now, it’s no secret that the Internet is paid for essentially by big companies buying small pieces of time on your eyeballs,” Maddern said. Button wants to change that by “capturing user intent”. For example, you are reading one The New York Times Travel story about Barcelona. You want to put Airbnb there. On your phone, you have to exit the New York Times app, then start the Airbnb app and look for Barcelona in it. In a Web browser, you can click directly from page to page – and go directly to a Barcelona listing page.
If we could recreate this kind of experience in the app universe – and Button built it open source for developers to do it – Maddern believes we can replace the old advertising regime with “streams of affiliate revenue to the network”. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before mobile platforms begin to unite into a universe of content and functionality that we can see and manage at will – just like above. Web.
“We are still relying on the Web for search and discovery right now,” Maddern said. “The app-to-app aspect hasn’t really matured yet. As we get past this craze, such as ‘omigod, you can deeply link everything from one app to another’, we’ll start to think of really fun ways to build just categories – and discoverable and direct down to both user-generated and brand-generated content within the app. “
Maddern is quite confident that this will happen. Right now, though, we can be forgiven for worrying that deep linking is mostly helping people sell us content. Deeplink.me is another outfit that is building the world of deep linking for mobile, and this is how it describes the experience (in a section of the website that is usefully labeled “For marketers’ eyes only” ):