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Does self-linking really degrade the Web?

Last week, Tim O’Reilly posted about self-linking as a journalistic practice, where one article on the Web refers to another story at the same site instead of an external link. For example, at BusinessWeek.com, a new feature article may link phrases and terms to other articles at Business Week for more explanation.

O’Reilly calls this a taxing proposition – he’s saying the benefit of the Web is that it’s an amalgamation of ideas, and that weak self-referential links at these sites can degrade the Web if they are just trying to generate traffic, and avoid links with more robust information.

I happen to disagree with the sentiment. I’m not sure about the motivations behind the self-linking, whether they are purely to increase traffic, but I liken those links to how a magazine refers to previous stories for more enlightenment on the topic. Yes, it is good for business, and maybe even insular, but if an article sends you to a previous story on a topic for more explanation, they are also saying that they believe their explanation is more worthwhile and keeps you at the site. In journalism, an external link says: the other guys are doing this better than we are, trust them and not us.

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