Information Processing and Management
We present a study to develop an improved understanding of symbolic links in web directories. A symbolic link is a hyperlink that makes a directed connection from a web page along one path through a directory to a page along another path. While symbolic links are ubiquitous in web directories such as Yahoo!, they are under-studied, and as a result, their uses are poorly understood. A cursory analysis of symbolic links reveals multiple uses: to provide navigational shortcuts deeper into a directory, backlinks to more general categories, and multiclassification. We investigated these uses in the Open Directory Project (ODP), the largest, most comprehensive, and most widely distributed human-compiled taxonomy of links to websites, which makes extensive use of symbolic links. The results reveal that while symbolic links in ODP are used primarily for multiclassification, only few multiclassification links actually span top- and second-level categories. This indicates that most symbolic links in ODP are used to create multiclassification between topics nested more than two levels deep and suggests that there may be multiple uses of multiclassification links. We also situate symbolic links vis à vis other semantic and structural link types from hypermedia. We anticipate that the results and relationships identified and discussed in this paper will provide a foundation for (1) users for understanding the usages of symbolic links in a directory, (2) designers to employ symbolic links more effectively when building and maintaining directories and for crafting user interfaces to them, and (3) information retrieval researchers for further study of symbolic links in web directories.
Copyright © 2008, Elsevier
Cross-references, Hypermedia, Information access, Information hierarchies, Link analysis, Link typing, Navigational search, Open Directory Project, Symbolic links, Taxonomic navigation, Web directories
Perugini, Saverio, "Symbolic Links in the Open Directory Project" (2008). Computer Science Faculty Publications. 27.
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