What Does Hyperlink Mean?

By Kent Ninomiya

A hyperlink is a simple way to connect someone viewing content on the Internet to another related page or document. Web publishers typically create hyperlinks so that clicking on a word, image or graphic automatically sends the viewer to another destination. Hyperlinks provide a convenient way to connect information so that readers can find their way around the Web.

Hyperlink Basics

A hyperlink is usually referred to as just a "link." It's an important element on virtually every Web page on the Internet. Hyperlinks allow website users to navigate a site by clicking on relevant words or pictures. It's virtually effortless and very intuitive. Hyperlinks are also commonly used to send users to other websites for more information, as a supporting reference or to try to sell them something.

Format Options

Hyperlinks come in different formats. An "embedded link" is a highlighted portion of text -- a single word or a phrase -- that when clicked sends you to another Web page. The suggestion is that the destination page has information relevant to the words in the embedded link, but this isn't always the case. A "hot area" is a part of an image or map that contains a hyperlink. Hot areas are handy for allowing users to follow pictures to discover more information. An "inline link" presents outside content to the viewer without her having to click the actual hyperlink. This information pops up as a floating text box, preview picture or a blown-up image of a particular area.

Link Features

Hyperlinks are usually obvious in a Web page layout to make navigation as easy as possible. Hyperlinked words tend to be a different color to make them stand out. They may also be italicized, underlined or in a different font face. Sometimes the display changes when a mouse pointer is scrolled over a hyperlink. This might be a change in the pointer icon, a color change on the screen or a zoomed-in view of the page content.

Link Functions

Hyperlinks work by creating a path between two points on the Web -- the source anchor and the destination anchor. The source anchor is the location of the hyperlink on the page. The destination anchor is where the hyperlink sends the reader -- usually a website URL. Sometimes clicking a link opens another browser tab or window so that the user still has access to the original content. Hyperlinks can also send users to PDF documents, email and other computer programs.

Click Warning

While hyperlinks were created to make the spread of information on the Internet more convenient and efficient, scammers sometimes abuse them. Many websites that sell items or memberships trick users into going to their site by providing misleading links. Some website designers also attempt to improve their Internet search engine position by flooding the Internet with links to their site. One trick is to create "invisible" links on websites that are the same color as the background so they cannot be seen. Several lawsuits have been filed accusing people who have created hyperlinks of copyright infringement. This issue is still a legal gray area.