In a recent blog post on delinkification. Nick gives the beloved hyperlink a suspicious stare:
Links are wonderful conveniences, as we all know (from clicking on them compulsively day in and day out). But they’re also distractions. Sometimes, they’re big distractions – we click on a link, then another, then another, and pretty soon we’ve forgotten what we’d started out to do or to read. Other times, they’re tiny distractions, little textual gnats buzzing around your head. Even if you don’t click on a link, your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it’s there and it matters. People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form. The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit on comprehension.
Ads (obnoxious or otherwise), sidebars, caked on layers of navigation – they all get in the way of the reading experience. Hyperlinks are a different animal. They’re potentially useful, but their temptation is distracting. Nick nails it: it’s a “more violent form of a footnote.”
The article clearly struck a nerve around the Internet, and it also struck a nerve with us. In response, we’ve decided to add a subtle but important option to Readability. Just below the style, size and margin options, you’ll find an option to Convert hyperlinks to footnotes:
This guys are incredible.
They really get it.