Last updateFri, 22 May 2020 12pm

The perils of hyperlinks

A reader of the Guadalajara Reporter wrote to me asking if I could help him out by explaining what a link in an email is. The answer is simple; it is that thing in an email I said you should never, never, never, never, never, never, never, ever click on!

Perhaps I should start by explaining the concept of a database.  The public library could be considered a huge database with the books making up its data and the card catalog being the link that helps users find their way to the data they are seeking.  In the modern world many databases are being preserved electronically rather than printed on paper. The simplest form of electronic storage is a plain text file. When you open one of those files you will find that it contains nothing but text in the same way that a paper book may contain nothing but text. That is a database in its simplest form, but modern technology has provided new and more sophisticated ways to store and access electronic databases.

One database format is Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) which is the computer language used to write files called hypertext documents. HTML is a database format in which other information related to what is displayed on your screen may be accessed by quickly jumping from one place to another with the click of a mouse. Hypertext documents can be linked to other hypertext documents, videos, or images by simply clicking on a hyperlink so that other hypertext may be viewed.

A hyperlink can be a word, phrase, picture, icon, etc.  Hyperlinks can very often be identified with the help of your mouse. On your computer screen the mouse pointer is usually an arrow but should turn to a finger pointing to a hyperlink whenever you are touching one. Simply click once while the pointer is a finger.

Almost every web page on the internet is a database in the form of a hypertext document. Clicking on hyperlinks is the way most people maneuver from one page to another. Were it not for hypertext documents containing hyperlinks it would be impossible for most people to navigate the internet. Indeed prior to the release of HTML in 1993 only computersscientists did use the internet. Those early users were able to access online content only by typing long addresses where one mistake meant no connection.

The implementation of HTML made it possible for non-technical computer users to simply click their mouse rather than type in long addresses. Some users today may have never needed to type in a 147-character address such as “http://www.theguadalajarareporter.com/index-php/columns/columns/charles-miller/47770-isp-cfe-reliability-improves-in-mexico-can-it-get-much-better/”.  When you click on a link you do not even need to know what the address is.  And here lies the danger. To find out more about that you should buy a copy of The Guadalajara Reporter next week.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico.  The opinions expressed are his own.  He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.

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