commit 070759275053b644cd5185379d8684b0c958a05e
parent d0ae0926cd342cd7deeda1577a374336ab4df988
Author: Oscar Benedito <>
Date:   Sun, 20 Dec 2020 21:03:31 +0100

New entry: Gemini's different approach to links

Acontent/blog/ | 91+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
1 file changed, 91 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)

diff --git a/content/blog/ b/content/blog/ @@ -0,0 +1,91 @@ +<!-- title: Gemini's different approach to links --> +<!-- slug: gemini-links --> +<!-- categories: Miscellany --> +<!-- date: 2020-12-20T20:01:00Z --> + +I have lately been reading many pages on [Gemini][gmi]. There has been a lot of +interest around it on the blogs/microblogs I follow, which has lead to me check +it out as well. The project is very interesting, and if you have ever been +interested in how much bandwidth the current web wastes, the lack of privacy +there is when we navigate it, the constant security issues that come up with +browsers, etc., I recommend you to take a look at the project and read the FAQs. +This post, however, is not about the Gemini protocol, but about how the +`text/gemini` media type handles links in comparison to HTML. + +`text/gemini` is a very lightweight markup format. It only allows text, headers, +sub-headers, sub-sub-headers, preformatted text, unordered lists, quotes, and +links. As you can see, it has a (small) subset of the functionality of other +hypertext formats such as HTML, Markdown or org-mode. On top of that, links have +to be on their own line, and you can optionally give them a title. If I wanted +to link to the Gemini homepage as I did in the last paragraph using +`text/gemini`, it would have to be in its own line: + +- [Project Gemini][gmi] + +That sounds very inconvenient, right? Why not just put the link inside the +paragraph like in HTML? I have found this way of linking a lot more pleasant +when reading articles, and that's the reason for this post. + +When links are in the middle of text, sometimes you click on them while +reading—maybe even before you've finished reading the sentence! Even if you +don't, they are distracting, you will probably have to make a mental note: read +the link once done with the paragraph, or you'll have to think: is this link +worth it? To decide whether to do the mental note in the first place. If you +don't do this, then you probably rescan the whole paragraph for links you have +ignored (or just ignore links altogether). By having the links at the end of the +paragraph, you won't get distracted in the middle of your reading, and you won't +have to rescan for ignored links. + +Aside from that, HTML links don't take up any space, they merely decorate a word +that was already there, while in `text/gemini` they take up a line of text, +which means authors will probably think twice before linking to 5 different +websites that don't provide any useful knowledge to the reader. But even if that +doesn't stop them, now links have titles, which means the visitor knows what the +link is about before clicking it. That is a nice feature because it makes it +easy to ignore anything you are not interested in. If the author doesn't specify +the title, the URL will be shown in its place, and that already gives a lot of +information. I know that in most browsers, you can hover over a link to see the +URL, but you have to reach for the mouse to do it (and it is even harder to see +the URL when on a phone or tablet). + +*But the words with HTML links already tell what the link is about!* + +Not always. For example, let's look at the start of the post, where the word +Gemini links somewhere. Three options of possible links come to mind: I'm +linking to the homepage of the project, the Wikipedia page (or some other wiki), +or a previous post where I talk about how I've been using Gemini lately. Two +types of readers also come to mind: someone that doesn't know what Gemini is +(interested to click if it's one of the first two options) or someone that knows +about Gemini, but is curious about others' experience with it (interested only +in the last link). So it's not only about whether the link is useful or not but +also about the particular visitor. However, if at the end of the paragraph there +was a line with one of the following texts, it is obvious for the reader what +kind of content the link is pointing to. + +- Project Gemini +- Gemini — Wikipedia +- Why I started using Gemini — Oscar Benedito + +Two notes: this way of writing titles is the one I follow for HTML's `a` tags' +`title` attribute, but other authors will do them differently. Also, the correct +way to link to a blog post would be to link using the whole sentence ("I have +lately been reading many pages on Gemini"), but not everyone does it. + +## Final thoughts + +When first reading about links in `text/gemini` I thought they were too +limiting, but they turned out to be quite nice. Don't get me wrong, links inside +text can be very useful, especially considering that the web is not only made of +large articles but, for this particular type of webpage, I find Gemini's +approach better. This also made me realize how distracting links can be, and I +am now trying to reduce the amounts of links to a minimum, as well as footnotes, +to reduce the distractions caused by them. For now, I will still use links the +"HTML way" because this blog is hosted on the world wide web, but I might change +my mind in the future. + +On another note, if Gemini sounds interesting, check out the +[specification][spec], it is easy to read and the approach is very interesting. + + +[gmi]: <> "Project Gemini" +[spec]: <> "Gemini protocol specification"