Will We See Link Annotations on the Web?
Imagine hovering over or right-clicking on links upon a page you’re browsing and seeing additional information about the pages behind those links.
A Google patent, originally filed in 2003, and granted this week, provides a way to see information about links for pages that you might be tempted to click upon before you click. Is this something that we might see from Google someday? Could it be the kind of thing that the Google Chrome browser might bring us?
Would you be interested in seeing some information about link annotations on a page you’re visiting before clicking through those pages?
The kind of information that you might be shown in link annotations could include:
- History of use
- Anchor text pointing to the page from other pages
- Summaries or other data associated with the destination page.
Google might be able to use information about the browsing activities of a person using this system, such as which link someone considers following on a page, how much time they think about actually visiting that page, and whether they do click through, to “develop better user models, search engines and web browsers.”
The patent is:
Methods and systems for assisted network browsing
Invented by Gregory Joseph Badros, David Ariel Cohn, Radhika Malpani, and John Dominick Piscitello
Assigned to Google
US Patent 7,516,118
Granted April 7, 2009
Filed December 31, 2003
Systems and methods for assisted network browsing are described. A client device receives an interesting signal in one described method indicating a user’s interest in a hyperlink contained in a first document.
The client device responds to the interest signal by generating a request signal comprising a request for third-party-provided information about a second document associated with the hyperlink. The client device receives the requested third-party-provided information and causes it to be output in association with the first document.
Google may never develop this kind of link annotations system. Still, it’s interesting to see what kinds of information the patent says they might provide about the page behind a link, including such things as:
Other Links on the Same Page – In addition to showing information about the destination page for a link, information about pages behind other links on that page might be shown as well.
Browsers’ Recent Queries – Information related to the most recent search query or queries might be shown to help address “the most recently stated informational needs of the user.”
Queries Related to a Page. Someone interested in the annotated link might also be interested in seeing what search engine the search engine has determined to be related to that page.
A Content Snippet Related to the Page – A portion of the text, image, or sound found on the document linked to, which can help the person browsing evaluate the potential usefulness of that page. The selection of the snippet used might be related to a past search query or queries entered by the person browsing.
Past User Information about the Page – Information related to a previous visitor or visitors of the page, such as a rating from users, how long previous users lingered on the page, how often previous viewers visited the page, queries that past visitors used to find the page, whether they printed the page, saved the page, and how far down the page they may have scrolled.
Genres – Useful classifications of the page, such as; “fictional, reference, children’s, or; adult-oriented document.”
Comparisons between Anchor Text Pointing to the Page and the Actual Content of the Page – How well the anchor text pointing to the page matches up with the content found upon the page. Information may also be provided about whether or not the page being linked to is from the same author or publisher or is hosted on the same server.
Liveness – Has the page being pointed towards been “removed, moved, altered, neglected or abandoned?”
Cached Versions – A way to view one or more previous versions of the page might be provided.
Disruptiveness Measures – Does the page show pop-up windows, play loud or annoying music upon entering the page, or contain computer viruses or malware of some type?
Recommendations of Other Links – If you log in to this system, you might be shown additional links that let you “See related hyperlinks for users similar to you.”
I suspect that some people would find a link annotations system like this useful when browsing web pages. I also suspect that site owners might be concerned about the annotations that show up for links that appear upon their pages and might find those annotations obtrusive.
Would Google consider making link annotations an optional feature for their browser?
The patent was originally filed in 2003, and Google might not have an interest in developing this kind of link annotations system at this point. If they did, what kind of impact might it have on how you browse pages or how you link to pages?