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Oct 7, 2009 11:06pm

breaking links

Quick pet peeve break.

I use tabs in my web browser, a lot. I especially use them in combination with my keyboard so that I can open links in new tabs: command-click in Safari means "open this link in a new tab". It lets me rack things up in the background without breaking my reading flow. This works for all normal links on the web.

It is a unique and special source of frustration to me when websites fuck about with Ajax and inadvertently break completely normal features of the web like this one. As far as I can tell, the idea is to offer regular HTML links, but introduce a javascript callback which changes them to a redirection at the moment that they are clicked. Looks like a link, but does not act like a link. Adam Greenfield writes about the potential future suckage of ubiquitous computing in just these terms: the addition of superfluous, unexpected behaviors to otherwise regular objects that no doubt seem like delight in the lab, but translate to frustration in the regular world.

Unwelcome magic.

For a long time, I thought it was just Twitter pulling this kind of thing (ask my coworkers about my occasional "fuck twitter and their stupid fucking fuck website" outbursts in the office), but recently I've started to see it being used on Wordpress blogs, even ones that aren't visibly hosted on a wordpress.com domain. I'd be a lot happier with my browsing if I didn't have to play guessing games before clicking on things - "is this a link or not a link?"

To see this behavior in action, check out the latest from Matt Jones and try to get the browser to open those links in a new tab with a command-click. It doesn't work because it needs a moment to jump you to "go2.wordpress.com".

Now back to your regularly scheduled lack of communication.

Comments (17)

  1. Someone *must* have written a Greasemonkey script to fix this, but I can't find it.

    Posted by Andy Baio on Wednesday, October 7 2009 11:33pm UTC

  2. Using NoScript for Firefox those links work just fine.

    Posted by Lee O'Mara on Thursday, October 8 2009 2:16am UTC

  3. I used to get annoyed by that, but it hasn't bitten me in a few months - I just realised that's because I subconsciously retrained myself to not use that short cut and use right mouse click -> 'open in new tab' instead purely to work around that issue. I hadn't even realised I had changed my behaviour.

    Posted by Simon Willison on Thursday, October 8 2009 7:23am UTC

  4. Matt Jones' links open fine in a new tab with a middle-click (Firefox 3.5.3/Vista)

    Posted by Beat Bolli on Thursday, October 8 2009 9:11am UTC

  5. This used to drive me mad as well. Strangely, I haven't run into this problem for quite a while, and I just discovered why: I must have unconsciously switched from opening background tabs using Ctrl+click to using the middle mouse button instead (in Firefox) some time ago. For whatever reason, the latter works for any type of link, while the former doesn't.

    Posted by trendels on Thursday, October 8 2009 9:20am UTC

  6. The problem with the middle mouse button is it isn't an option if you're using a Mac laptop.

    Posted by Simon Willison on Thursday, October 8 2009 9:37am UTC

  7. I have a practice of using dashed underlines for ajax links, and solid underlines for the regular links.

    Posted by Andrei on Thursday, October 8 2009 10:47am UTC

  8. The new NYPOST.com website redesign does this. It works fine if you right click or ctrl-click and select open in new tab but not if you use the more simple command-click.

    Posted by keithNYC on Thursday, October 8 2009 12:04pm UTC

  9. I'm not having an easy time reproducing this in Firefox. I don't have noscript or anything else exotic installed. I command click Matt's links and they open in a new tab just fine. I right-click and open in a new tab and they open in a new tab just fine. Same with Twitter...

    Posted by David Ulevitch on Thursday, October 8 2009 1:42pm UTC

  10. AJAX MAKES ME COOL hurf durf and all that

    Posted by Anonymous Coward on Thursday, October 8 2009 5:00pm UTC

  11. Lloyd Budd here of the WordPress.com team. It seems to be a Safari specific issue. I'll see what I can find out. PS. I was confused by the strikethrough for visited links on your site at first. Seems like an awkward experience because it messes with norms and makes visited links harder to read.

    Posted by Lloyd Budd on Thursday, October 8 2009 5:05pm UTC

  12. Lloyd, that's great news - thanks for taking the time! If you come up with a general solution please for the love of god send it to the Twitter guys preferably tied to a brick. =) Regarding the strikethrough, you're not the only person to mention it - I may get rid of it but I kinda like the affectation. *guilty look*

    Posted by Michal Migurski on Thursday, October 8 2009 6:19pm UTC

  13. The strike-through visited links are a bit weird. I came back here after NoScript had made the page work just fine for me, and at first thought that you had updated the post to indicate that the problem was no longer present on Matt Jones' page. But like I said, it was NoScript stopping it from being broken. Without NoScript, the same problem exists with Firefox 3.5.3 on win32. Middle-click/context-menu both work fine for opening in a new tab, but ctrl+clicking fails to open it in a new tab. The script in question comes from "skimlinks.com" (or at least allowing that domain in NoScript was all that was necessary to start having problems). If I keep it blocked, everything works just fine. So blacklisting that domain in a hosts file or something would probably work just fine for browsers without NoScript.

    Posted by Nick on Thursday, October 8 2009 6:26pm UTC

  14. Nick, good details! I had just come back to update saying that we, WordPress.comm, think we've isolated it as being directly related to skimlinks.com. Skimlinks is service we are testing. That also explains why it might not always reproduce, because we don't always serve with it. Hope my next update is good news that we know of a resolution ;-)

    Posted by Lloyd Budd on Thursday, October 8 2009 8:35pm UTC

  15. I have the same issue! (Just googled it to find this post.) I don't think it's only Safari because I'm using Firefox 3.0.14. Ctrl + click - redirecty link opens in same tab. Context menu > open in new tab - works as expected. (On a laptop without a mouse so I can't check middle-click.) Deeply uncool Wordpress. Don't break link behaviour. :(

    Posted by pfctdayelise on Friday, October 9 2009 2:18pm UTC

  16. Strangely, in Safari if you control click and select "open new tab" it works just fine. You would think that command click would have the exact same functionality, but apparently not. And, yes, I understand the reasoning behind the strikethrough for visited links (the satisfaction of checking off to-do lists), but I find it awkward as well.

    Posted by David Sasaki on Wednesday, October 14 2009 5:28pm UTC

  17. David, I'm guessing it has something to do with the mouseup handling. When you control click and use the menu, you're not releasing your mouse on the link itself, so it likely doesn't trap the click. (Not a javascript guru, just guessing what Lloyd is having to do to fix the issue - maybe it's not fixable, and if skimlinks went away I wouldn't be broken up about it)

    Posted by Michal Migurski on Wednesday, October 14 2009 5:44pm UTC

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