The anchor tag allows us to link to a destination (with a URL) or a thing (with a URN). However, very commonly on the web today, people incorrectly use URLs as a way to direct people to more information on a thing. This happens because there is currently no good alternative available.
“We suggest you change your password due to the recent Heartbleed bug discovered in OpenSSL.”
The above is typical of many links found on the internet, and highlights 3 main problems:
The semantic issue that there is currently no way to express what you really want here. Instead of “show information about the Heartbleed bug”, you can only say “show this Wikipedia article about the Heartbleed bug”. Wikipedia often being chosen somewhat arbitrarily.
The person creating the link will often choose their favourite online encyclopedia at the time of authoring, whereas it would be better to use the user’s favourite encyclopedia at the time they follow the URL. The advantage being that the user is in control, and can use an encyclopedia that is on their own computer, or was created after the document was authored.
People often don’t bother to link things that users may want to read more about because of the time it takes to get the URL to the Wikipedia article. If an href wasn’t required, I probably would have linked OpenSSL as well, so that users who are interested could easily read about that as well.
So my proposal is that if there is an
<a> tag without
name attributes specified, browsers should take users to information about the text inside. This may involve performing a search for the text on some search engine, or going to the article on Wikipedia, but users should be able to configure this behavior.
I think this would have a positive effect on the web; like on Wikipedia, it would be easy to conveniently link things that users may want to read more about, saving users time and allowing them to get to the information they want with a single click.
The only downsides I can see is that this would reduce page ranking for sites that are currently linked to for general-purpose information, e.g. Wikipedia and Google, and that it could cause issues in some cases if you’re already using anchors without
href for some reason - http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3186767/using-anchor-without-href-just-to-get-that-hover-effect
A new tag could be created to avoid the latter, but I feel that using the existing
<a> tag would be better, as it seems very logical and, in many cases, would avoid systems requiring update to support the new tag.
I hope this proposal is useful and welcome feedback on it.
Above text taken from an old proposal I made on Bugzilla.