After reading this incredibly lengthy history of Suck.com and the chapter on “links” in Steven Johnson’s Interface Culture, it seems that what many found to be most interesting about Suck.com was the way it used hyperlinks. Rather than just using links in a boring way, Suck.com used them to actually add to sentence meaning as opposed to just using them as footnotes. Johnson explains:
Whereas every other Web site conceived hypertext as a way of augmenting the reading experience, Suck saw it as an opportunity to withhold information, to keep the reader at bay. Even the sophisticated Web auteurs offered up their links the way a waiter offers up fresh-ground pepper: as a supplement to the main course, a spice. (Want more? Just click here.)
It’s actually quite a challenging task, but a fascinating one at the same time. The hyperlink has the ability to completely transform the way we write, yet we tend to just use it as a we would a footnote, doing things like connecting someone to the Apple homepage when we mention the name of the company.
Suck.com was doing something that very few have been able to grasp since: Abandoning language conventions and embracing some of the power of this new medium. Instead of writing out a joke, why not just use the power of links to tell it? The Big Fish explains:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s important to understand that up until then, to the best of my knowledge, people had just used hyperlinks in a strictly informational sense, simply as online footnotes,Ã¢â‚¬? says Mark Dery, author of Escape Velocity. Ã¢â‚¬Å“With Suck, you wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get the joke until you punched through on the link. Then you found out that it set the keyword to which this new source was linked in an ironic light.Ã¢â‚¬?
Part of the reason Suck.com could do this was because they had an audience who knew the deal, but also because they just didn’t care. They don’t seem to have been interested to bowing to the lowest common denominator and for that they deserve some credit. I know from personal experience that “click here” shows up because there’s a belief people won’t know what to do otherwise. Shouldn’t we have a little more faith, though?
I’d like to think so. I’d also like to think I can take better advantage of the hyperlink. At least it’s worth a shot. Right?